BRAISED FENNEL AND TOMATOES WITH OLIVES

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This is a recipe I adapted from an original recipe developed by Chef Deborah Madison. The fennel and tomato meld beautifully to create a luxurious taste in your mouth. The addition of olives adds a nice salty contrast to the unique combination of flavor offered by the fennel and tomato. An unforgettable dish you will make often, I promise. 

Serves 4

2 large fennel bulbs
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups chicken stock, or water
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 cup sliced pitted kalamata olives (optional)
freshly ground pepper
minced fennel greens or fresh flat-leaf parsley to garnish

 

  1. Trim off the stalks and greens from the fennel bulbs. (Mince the greens for a garnish. If there are none, you can use parsley.) If the outer thick leaves of the bulbs look tough and scarred, as they often do, take a slice off the base to loosen them and set them aside for another use.
  2. Halve each bulb lengthwise and cut the halves into wedges about 1 1/2 inches at the widest part.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a wide sauté pan over medium-high heat. When warm, add the onion and fennel seeds, crumble in the thyme. Cook for one minute to release the flavor of the fennel seeds and thyme.
  4. Add the onion and fennel wedges and cook them until golden, turning them occasionally so that each side is evenly browned.
  5. Once they are well colored, add the garlic, stir in the tomato paste and then add the stock and 1 teaspoon salt.
  6. Scrape the pan to release the juices from the bottom of the pan, then cover and simmer until the fennel is tender, another 15 minutes.
  7. remove the pan from the heat and stir in the kalamata olives (if using) and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.
  8. Sprinkle the dish with fennel greens or parsley. Serve

HINT
Save the branches from the fennel bulb, put them in a parchment package and place some salmon on top and bake. The fennel branches impart beautiful moisture into the fish!