My husband and I can get into mini battles of the words over vegetables vs. meat. I think, secretly, he is scared I will turn our family into a plant eating, meat substituting kind of family. His fears are not without validation, as I have spent a few years of my life without animal products, and could do it again in a heart beat. The look on his face as I attempt to reassure a meaty future is not overly convincing, so I am going to put it out there for the world to read - a written guarantee of steak, barbecue chicken, and even sausages - however never without an accompanying vegetable! (I did win a little portion of this argument though, listen up all you who need to convince your other halves to finish the 'green stuffs' on their plates: We could live on vegetables and grains alone, and be super healthy, but give us meat only, we may lose a few pounds, sure, but we probably will suffer some sort of heart failure amongst many other organ problems.) So there you have it. It's all about balance - which seems to be the way my husband and I often conclude with agreeing to disagree.
If you are anything like me, which you probably aren't but bare with me, you may get kicks out of putting a new vegetable on the dinner table once in a while. If it wasn't for this, carrots and broccoli could easily be the end of it in my home, mostly because I seem to be the only advocate! I personally am still working on turnips and brussel sprouts, but am excited to discover how wonderful they are when roasted in small bite sizes along with a medley of other options (thanks, Aunt Jean!). This past weekend I bought fennel. Mmm fennel. It's something I ate once in a while growing up in Europe, and fennel tea is what toddlers drink instead of juice over there. Fennel is quite mild in flavor and texture, which really does make it an ideal option for kids. It has a natural sweetness to it as well, with a slight licorice taste - what's not to love? And to top it off, fennel also aids digestion, which can be helpful for so many of us grown ups.
Finocchio al Forno (Caramelized Fennel)
2 large fennel bulbs
6 tbsp (90 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
Rinse the fennel. Cut off and discard the long stalks.
Cut the bulbs into eighths.
Preheat oven to 450 F (230 C).
Drop the fennel into a pot of boiling salted water and cook for about 5 minutes or until just fork tender. (This simply gives it a head start to cut down on roasting time.) Drain and dry completely with a clean kitchen towel.
Spread in a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil (don't be shy now!), then top with grated Parmigiano, salt and pepper, then bread crumbs.
Roast in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, until caramelized and a nice golden color.