In 1824, the writer Thomas Appleton sent his friend Thomas Jefferson a batch of garden seeds from Naples. The broccoli and cauliflower from the region were beyond compare, he wrote, but he saved his highest praise for the fennel.
The fennel is beyond every other vegetable, delicious. It greatly resembles in appearance the largest size celery, perfectly white, and there is no vegetable equals it in flavor. It is eaten at dessert, crude, and with, or without dry salt. Indeed I preferred it to every other vegetable or to any fruit.
Although Mr. Jefferson was an avid gardener, fennel has never gained much popularity in American cooking. This week, Martha Rose Shulman also sings the praises of this unusual vegetable, herb and spice, offering five new reasons why we should all start cooking with fennel. Fennel and Leek Gratin With Feta:
The gratin is simple and gluten-free. Serve it as a side dish or main course. Couscous With Fennel, Chickpeas and Chard:
Like many Tunisian stews, this one is fragrant with spices and loaded with beans and vegetables. Farfalle With Stewed Fennel, Artichokes and Peas:
Fennel gives this pasta, inspired by a signature Sicilian dish, a wonderfully sweet flavor. Fennel and Red Pepper Salad:
This salad never gets soggy — the longer the vegetables marinate, the tastier the salad is. Oven-Roasted Fish With Fennel:
This dish is a simplified version of a classic seafood entree from the French Riviera.