lunedì 8 febbraio 2016


Side dish - Vegetarian - Can be gluten and lactose free (READ footnotes)

I love fennel bulbs they are among the least calorie-dense food and are quite filling. I eat them in thin wedges, raw, dipped in olive oil, or super-thin in mixed salads. But my favorite are the milk cooked, "au gratin" fennel wedges that bring back childhood memories!!!

2 big fennel bulbs
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cups milk
1 cup water
2 tbsp Italian extra Virgin olive oil
2 tbsp Italian 00 flour
4 tbsp Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
Italian sea salt

Cut the fennel bulbs in 8 wedges, then wash and drain them carefully.

In a big, non-stick skillet with lid over medium-high heat, warm the oil and sautee onions until the become translucent, add fennel and stir; season with salt, then add milk and water; bring to boil then cover with lid and lower to simmer. Cook until the fennel wedges are soft, turning them a couple times.

Preheat oven at 375.

Prepare the "bechamel": strain 2 cups of the cooking milk/water mixture; in a saucepan put the flour, a pinch of salt and a pinch of nutmeg; pour milk/water in a thin stream whisking to prevent knots. Turn on heat to medium and cook your "bechamel", constantly stirring, until it thickens. Cover with a lid and set aside.

Grease an ovenproof casserole or deep baking dish, arrange the fennel wedges on the bottom (drained from the remaining cooking liquid, that you can use for a risotto) and cover with bechamel; top with mozzarella and Parmigiano, then transfer to your oven. Bake on central rack until cheeses melt and become golden.

This recipe serves 4.

(not baked - can be served this way, with a little of cooking liquid)

- I added water to milk so that milk won't "break up" so easily!
- I was lucky enough to find "big fat" clean fennel bulbs, normally they are thinner and with lot of stems and fronds (you can cook part of stems and fronds along with your wedges and then make a risotto with them).
- The reason why bechamel is between "quotations" is because TRUE bechamel uses butter and is made slightly differently.
- You can serve fennel wedges before baking them, making it lighter (see photo).
- This is a vegetarian dish, can be gluten free (provided you use corn starch, instead of flour) and lactose free (if you use non-dairy milk and avoid cheeses - use breadcrumbs for top crust ;-) ).

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