Braised Fennel Wedges with Saffron and Tomato

Week-end dinners around our house are casual. They usually begin with something on the grill or something that's cooked low and slow. Saturday was no exception. After coming across this recipe in Deborah Madison's "Vegetable Literacy" cookbook I decided to give it a try. I won't lie at first it was the photograph that drew me in. But then the actual simplicity of the ingredients won me over.

In preparing this dish I learned a few new things about fennel. The recipe instructs you to leave in the core. This is what holds the wedges together.The longer it simmered the more mellow in flavor it became. This method showcases a whole new flavor for this vegetable. In the end the sauce is finished with butter. Which is now rich and syrupy.

The pungent flavor from the saffron and the sweet anise of the fennel worked well together. I served with grilled Italian sausage.

Braised fennel, a new seasonal favorite. Adapted from Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy.


2 large fennel bulbs
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
Good pinch of saffron threads
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 clove garlic (crushed)
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon butter
Freshly ground pepper
Parsley or fennel greens (minced)

To prepare:

Trim off the stalks and greens from the fennel bulbs. (Mince the greens for a garnish.) If there are none, you can use parsley. If the outer thick leaves of the bulbs look tough and scarred, as they normally do, take a slice off the base to loosen them. Halve each bulb lengthwise and cut the halves into wedges about 1 1/2 inches at the widest part.

Heat the olive oil in a wide saute pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and fennel seeds, crumble in the saffron and thyme, and cook until the steam releases the color from saffron, after several minutes. Add the fennel wedges and cook until golden, turning them and the onions occasionally. Once they are well colored, add the garlic, stir in the tomato paste, and then add the stock and 1 teaspoon salt. Scrape the pan to release the juices, cover and simmer until fennel is tender, another 15 minutes.

When ready to serve, add the butter to the sauce and then bring to a boil. Simmer until thick and syrupy. Reheat the fennel, taste for salt and pepper and pour the sauce over the fennel. Garnish with fennel greens and serve. Enjoy!


  1. This sounds like such a unique recipe. I haven't had fennel too much, but I'd love to experiment with it a bit. Looks really yummy!

    1. Thanks Tammy, when fennel is braised it takes on a more mellow sweeter flavor. It really is quite good.


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