The fennel adds subtle verve -- plus, it's an excellent way to use up fennel bulbs that tend to linger in the vegetable bin.
The original recipe called for a red pepper (and I used what was on hand, a yellow one) which did "veg up" the dish (for example, to serve more people) and "use up" a pepper that needed attention. But it also wasn't that interesting and seemed a gratuitous addition of color -- so next time, unless I need to veg up or use up, I'll skip the pepper.
~ more fennel recipes ~
BROCCOLI with FENNEL
Hands-on time: 15 minutes
Time to table: 25 minutes (requires occasional attention during last 10 minutes)
1 tablespoon olive oil (reduced from 4 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 bulb fennel, finely chopped
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped (next time, skip this)
1 pound broccoli, "aggressively trimmed" (see ALANNA's TIPS)
A sprinkle of thyme, basil and savory (or use herbes de Provence if you have it on hand)
2/3 cup fat-free chicken broth (Swanson's 100% Natural Goodness is what Cook's Illustrated recommends)
Heat a large, deep skillet over MEDIUM HIGH. When it's hot, add the oil and let heat. Add the fennel seeds and stir into the oil, let cook for about 3 minutes.
While the fennel SEEDS cook, chop the fennel BULB and onion; add them to the skillet as they're prepped. (The fennel needs slightly more time to cook so do add it first.) Cook until soft, about 3 minutes.
While the fennel/onion cooks, trim the broccoli (see TIPS). Add the broccoli, herbs and broth to the skillet and stir to slightly coat the broccoli with liquid.
Cover and let cook for 5 minutes. Uncover, stir and cover again, turn off the heat and let rest for another 5 minutes (Hands off that cover! for the heat inside will continue to cook the broccoli. )
Per Serving: 84 Cal (37% from Fat, 17% from Protein, 46% from Carb); 4 g Protein; 4 g Tot Fat; 1 g Sat Fat; 11 g Carb; 4 g Fiber; 69 mg Calcium; 1 mg Iron; 139 mg Sodium; 0 mg Cholesterol, Weight Watchers 1 point
This is a broccoli-cooking-changing technique learned from StephenCooks:
"Cut the last 1/4" from the end of the stalks, use a paring knife to trim any gnarly stumps or little branches from the stalks and then, using a vegetable peeler, peel the tough outer skin from the stalks, starting at the base of the flower and going to the end of the stalks. Some larger stalks have a fairly thick skin and may need two passes of the peeler...you can tell when you got it all when the inner flesh of the stalk is exposed...it has a softer wet-green look, with no fibers visible and a consistency like a cut radish or potato.
Cut the broccoli into serving portions...I usually cut it crosswise into three pieces - the flower and two pieces of stalk about 2 1/2 - 3" long. Then divide the flowers from each other and halve or quarter the stalk pieces lengthwise. For uniform cooking, the flower stems should be about the same diameter as the quartered or halved stalk pieces."
CREDIT WHERE CREDIT'S DUE
Adapted from Bon Appetit November 2001