Braised finocchio and Belgian endive
This simple recipe is surprising because no water is used in the braising. The vegetables release their own juices, which is sufficient for them to cook to a deliciously caramelized tenderness. But beware: Belgian endive can be slightly bitter, which some people find unpleasant. If this is your case, add a tiny bit of sugar as indicated in the recipe. If not, stick to the original. It’s a winner.
2 finocchio (fresh fennel) bulbs
3 Belgian endives
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. mixed herbs from Provence (see note below)
1 tsp. dried fennel seeds
1 dried cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. salt, or more to taste
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. sugar (optional)
Rinse the finocchio bulbs. Trim away the spikes at the top and slice off the bottom. Discard. Cut the bulbs into quarters. Set aside.
Rinse the endives. Thinly slice off the bottom of each endive — you want it to hold together, so don’t slice off too much. Cut each endive in half. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil to sizzling in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the fennel quarters and sauté over medium-high heat, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the endive halves and sauté for 5 minutes more. The vegetables will brown in places, conferring a rich, caramelized flavor.
Reduce the heat to low. Add the dried herbs and fennel seeds. Using a paper towel to protect your hands, crush the cayenne pepper over the pot. Add the salt, grind in some black pepper, and add the sugar if using.
Cover the pot and allow the vegetables to braise over low heat until they are tender, about 20 minutes more.
Serve hot alongside roasted meat, poultry or fish, or with steamed brown rice or another grain. Serves 4.
Herbs from Provence — herbes de Provence in French — is a mixture that typically includes thyme, rosemary, basil, oregano, savory and sometimes other dried herbs, among them marjoram, chervil, savory, tarragon, and sage. If you live outside of France and cannot find this mixture, simply blend your chosen herbs together in a small bowl and store in an airtight jar. It’s good to keep a supply on hand, for this herbal mixture appears very frequently in French cuisine.