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Braised Fennel with Tomato, Green Olives & Capers

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Serves four.

  • To learn more, read:
    Fennel: The Raw and the Cooked
  • by Janet Fletcher, Rosetta Costantino from Fine Cooking
    Issue 90

Seafood prepared alla ghiotta (“glutton’s style”)—with tomatoes, olives, and capers—is common in Calabria and Sicily, but the same flavors are compatible with fennel.

  • 1 large fennel bulb, trimmed (3/4 to 1 lb. after trimming)
  • 8 large green Sicilian or Cerignola olives
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 cups peeled, seeded, and diced fresh tomato (2 or 3 small tomatoes) OR a 28-oz. can whole tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), drained, seeded, and diced
  • 3 Tbs. capers, drained and rinsed
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthwise and then cut each half lengthwise into four 1-1/2-inch-thick wedges. Trim a little of the core but leave enough to hold the layers together.

With a pairing knife, slice the olive flesh off the pits lengthwise.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the fennel, one cut side down, and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, turning once with tongs, until the wedges are lightly browned on both cut sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Add the onion and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally and gently so as not to break up the fennel wedges, until the onions are slightly softened and browned, about 5 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, capers, and olives to the pan along with 1 cup water. Bring to a simmer, cover, and reduce the heat to medium low or low, to maintain a steady simmer. Cook until the fennel wedges are fork tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat to high, and simmer briskly until most of the liquid evaporates, leaving a thick sauce, 3 to 5 minutes. Gently stir in the parsley. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with grilled swordfish or tuna, roast chicken, or grilled sausages.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 200; Fat (g): 16; Fat Calories (kcal): 140; Saturated Fat (g): 2; Protein (g): 2; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 12; Carbohydrates (g): 13; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 1.5; Sodium (mg): 890; Cholesterol (mg): 0; Fiber (g): 5;

Photo: Scott Phillips

I really liked this recipe, although I used 2 large bulbs and didn't have the capers I thought I had. It was great even without the capers, probably less salty. Next time, I would probably make it a day before to let the flavors meld. Very nice side dish!

I agree with the other reviewer. If you are making this as a fennel side dish, I would add more fennel. However, if this is used as a sauce for fish than make as written. I made it to serve next to grilled swordfish and it worked out well. This is a tasty sauce.

Very nice side dish. Sort of like Fennel Puttanesca. Consider using 2 bulbs of fennel instead of just one, as otherwise you get a lot of sauce.

The fennel had a nice texture but not much flavor. The sauce was wonderful and I used the leftovers as pizza sauce and it was fabulous.

loved it

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