Fennel Gratin

I have met many people who do not like fennel very much. I cannot partake this opinion, as for me fennel, raw or cooked, has a distinctive, mild, and flowery flavor, sweet and delicate, that has accompanied me all my life. It can be associated easily with other ingredients and results in a unique dish, with deep and unique flavors.

It is a winter vegetable, traditionally found in the Mediterranean basin but now grown everywhere. It was known to the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans as an edible plant as well as an ingredient in traditional medicine for its anti-inflammatory properties. Fennel grows under the soil, and can sustain cold temperatures. It is helpful for the human body in many ways, as it is rich in Vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium; it is also rich in polyphenols, has zero cholesterol, a ton of fibers and few calories. So many reasons to love this winter vegetable, not to mention the fact that you can rinse and chop it, and in just a couple of minutes you add a different flavor to any basic salad!

It’s not my goal to make publicity, but I buy fennel (all year round, the miracles of globalization) at Trader Joe’s. I was thought that the best fennels are the ones with a round bulb, as opposed to those that look a bit flat and long.

My mother used to give me a raw fennel, washed and cut in quarters, as a snack to bring to school. It makes me smile when I think how much the concept of snack is different in the US, but to tell you the truth it has evolved – and not in a positive way – also in Italy.

My mother did not think nor know anything about the low calories/good vitamins ratio, it was just some intuitive thing, fennel was readily available in all the markets, very cheap (it is still sold by the kilo in Italy and not by the piece) and easy to pack. It can stay fresh for a long time, even outside the refrigerator if kept at a low temperatures (like in the garage or on the balcony). I always loved the crunchiness of the fennel. Just a bit hard to eat during class, as it was also very noisy!

This dish is a perfect make ahead side dish and reheats beautifully.


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For 4 Servings

1 cup Carnaroli rice
1 medium onion, chopped
2-3 tablespoons of EV Olive Oil
½ glass of white table wine
1 pint chicken stock preprepared (or vegetable stock)
1 cup rinsed blueberries
1 cup roasted chestnuts or more, chopped in big pieces
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons gorgonzola cheese (optional)