Thursday, January 20, 2005

In Love with Fennel

While looking for pecans at Nissin (my favorite supermarket specializing in foreign foods in Tokyo), there in the middle of the isle, sitting in a basket, I saw giant fennels (I say giant because the stalks and leaves attached made the whole thing almost 1 metre in length). You don’t see them in Japan very often. Come to think of it, I am not sure if I’d ever had fennel before. I mean real fennels, not just some chopped up pieces in a sauce or fennel seeds that come from a bottle. I think Nissin may have always stocked them, but never in such a conspicuous spot for me to see, and usually small ones. These, on the other hand, looked so meaty and fresh. They beckoned me with their luscious feathery leaves to come and take a closer look. I picked out the biggest one with a full head of crazy green hair and held it in my arm like a baby (although, what do I know about holding a baby?). Hmmm, now I have to cook you.

If I weren't so anxious to hack into the bulb, I'd have a picture of my fine-looking fennel, but I don't, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

When I got home, I quickly found a recipe for Fenouils braisés à la tomate et à l'échalote (French, ooh lah lah) and decided to pair it with rosemary chicken with orange-maple glaze . (A chance for my rosemary plants to make a debut too) I thought the subtle taste of the fennel (I assumed it would be subtle) would complement the strong flavors in the maple glaze well. I was not disappointed. I wasn’t sure we would like it, since neither Jason nor I are licorice fans, but we didn’t find the taste too pungent. It’s hard to pinpoint, but it reminded me of something (maybe celery? Except no celery I’ve ever eaten had such complex flavors). Our entire dinner conversation focused on this subject, but we were not able to come up with a satisfactory answer. Oh well, I am not picky, as long as my food tastes good.

My next task is to find a way to use the feathery leaves that was left. I am not about to throw them away. One, because I have decided to be less wasteful about food this year; and two, they are simply too gorgeous to be dumped, especially the furry baby leaves, like feathers on hatchlings. I am absolutely smitten.


Rachel said...

I'm a fennel fan too, but I was just complaining to Akito the other day about how you never see it in the supermarkets here.

Wow, your photo looked like something out of a magazine!

Lynn said...

Thanks Rach, I was quite happy with the colors myself.

If you are in the mood fennel, let me know. I can go to Nissin and check to see if they have any.

BTW, have you ever cooked with fennel leaves before?