I don’t remember when or why Claire and I became obsessed with fennel, but it has been whirlwind romance. It grows wild in southern california in wet, marshy areas (ie. SWAMPS). We often happen upon it while walking Claire’s lovable pet monster/lamb/dog, Toby.
If you stumble across the fragrant shrub with its characteristic pale green stalks, try pinching off a sprig and chewing it. Wild and raw, it tastes just like black licorice. If it doesn’t taste edible, spit it out because it’s probably not. You could also buy fennel (stalks or bulbs) at your friendly grocer.
After cooking fennel bulbs, the powerful licorice flavor mellows out and they become quite sweet. We were pleasantly surprised to see our fennel preserve much of its crunch. Whether you’re smitten like us or have no idea what fennel is, we’re sure you’ll like this hearty, seasonal gratin.
Fennel and Gouda Gratin
2 bulbs fennel- wild if you can find it!
1 cup shredded hard gouda (plus a little extra for sprinkling on top)
2 tablespoons fresh rosemary
1/4 cup olive oil
salt + pepper to taste
Chop fennel bulbs and grate gouda. Toss fennel with rosemary, olive oil, salt and pepper. Place layer of fennel in 9x3x3 glass loaf pan, cover with cheese, and repeat until pan is full. Top with shredded gouda and a few grinds of coarse black pepper. Bake 15-20 minutes uncovered or until fennel is crispy brown and your entire kitchen smells like sweet anise.