Braised Fennel with Saffron & Tomato

I forgot to take a picture of this beauty the other night, because I had just come home from work and it was already ready to go (thank you my dearest husband!) and I gobbled it right up. The flavor here is amazing. I’m a huge fan of fennel and this tomato sauce does it right. We served it over brown rice to give it a little more heft (and to provide some lunch leftovers for the next day).

braised fennel with saffron and tomato

Braised Fennel with Saffron & Tomato
via Vegetable Literacy

2 large fennel bulbs
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
good pinch of saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups fennel stock, chicken stock, or water
sea salt
1 tablespoon butter
freshly ground pepper
minced fennel greens or fresh flat-leaf parsley

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. Halve each bulb lengthwise and cut the halves into wedges about 1 1/2 inches at the widest part.
Heat the olive oil in a wide saute pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and fennel seeds, crumble in the saffron and thyme and then cook until the steam releases the color from the saffron, after several minutes. Add the fennel wedges and cook them until golden, turning them and the onions occasionally. Once they are well colored, add the garlic, stir in the tomato paste and then add the stock and 1 teaspoon salt. Scrape the pan to release the juices, then cover and simmer until the fennel is tender, another 15 minutes.

Photo: Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton

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