Fennel is a umbelliferous plant, Foeniculum vulgare, which is used in cooking and medicine. And if you are wondering what an umbelliferous plant is, it is one that has an umbel, or where a number of flower stalks or pedicels, nearly equal in length, spread from a common center. The plant is a simple umbel, when each pedicel is terminated by a single flower, and a compound umbel when each pedicel bears a secondary umbel. This information I got from the American College Dictionary. Other umbelliferous plants include
and Queen Ann's Lace, sometimes called Common Carrot.
Fennel was used in my mother's kitchen as an ingredient for a soup, we called "Fennel and Rice."
She used it in her antipasto platters as a appetizer before dinner.
The tops of Fennel are often cut and thrown out by grocery stores, and what you might see is just the bottom portion and a bit of the stalks.
Try to purchase the one with the most foliage, which looks like the leaves of dill, but has a completely different flavor, that of anise. Fennel is used in Mediterranean cuisine, which explains why my mother, a Sicilian descendant favored it.
Heat extra virgin olive oil in a cast iron pan. The tea kettle in the back is one that I found at a thrift shop, and was made in Germany, marked Kupfer, and has a brass whistling top that sounds like a train whistle.
Chop up some onion finely, and
saute it in a bit of extra virgin olive oil.
and chop up the fennel, bulb, stalks and foliage very finely.
add the chopped fennel to the onion and continue to saute.
Measure two cups of rice, remember that it will make 3 times the volume , or 6 cups cooked.
Using at least 4 or more cups of water,
cook on a low heat until the rice is tender. The more water, the soupier the mix, the less water, the more like porridge it will be.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
In our house, nothing beat coming home from school in the Fall or Winter, to a hot bowl of Fennel and Rice. Who knew my mother was a gourmet cook?
Warning, unless you start kids early eating this dish, they probably won't like the anise flavor.
Rose Loreto Guglielmino (1916-2006) in 1969, who was a wonderful mom, that cooked and baked from scratch every day.