Like most of the children I know today, when I was young I was never a big fan of vegetables. I believe the main reason was that very few of them are sweet, a very important component of success among youngsters. Also, most of them have a mushy, soft consistency that did not get along with my perception of nice food. Luckily, getting older I learned to appreciate not only the nutritional value of vegetables, but also the infinite and creative ways in which this nature's gift can be cooked. There were, however few veggies that my hopeless mom was able to suggest. One of them was fennel. She usually prepared them raw with some touch of olive oil, salt and pepper. The intense anise taste that accompanied my early meals was intriguing, but pleasant at the same time. I still enlist fennel, or anise , as some people might know it, as one of my top ten favorite vegetables. While it is always comforting preparing it as my mother used to do when I was young, there is a variety of ways this precious vegetable can be prepared. Just to list some important nutritional values, fennel seeds are used in some countries to improve eyesight, a property widely known also in the ancient Roman empire. Fennel can also be used as an effective diuretic and against hypertension. The way I prepared this simple "contorno" or side dish. is a good way to blend the strong flavor of fennel with the cheese that accompanies it.
2 whole fresh fennels ( possibly with stems still attached)
5 tbsp. oil of olive
5 ounces of unsalted butter
2 ounces of fresh grated Parmesan cheese
A few shavings of Parmesan to top
salt and pepper to taste
In a medium size pot, heat the oil at low temperature and then add the fennel chunks once the oil is sizzling. Saute for about five minutes, making sure that the fennel doesn't cook too much. Then add the water so that the fennel is almost covered. Top with a lid, leaving a little gap for the steam and let the fennel tenderize for about 40 minutes . Stir the fennel every five to ten minutes. The goal is to make the fennel absorb the water and become tender at the same time. When the fennel has a creamy , soft consistency add the butter and keep on mixing for 5 more minutes. Before serving, add the grated Parmesan cheese and top it with the cheese savings. Serve warm as a side dish with a main course