I've been enamored with fennel as of late. Bad timing on my part because it's out of season. But just before summer began, I was able to get my hands on a sizeable one that hadn't sprouted flowers yet (the sign they're past their prime). But I still didn't know what to do with it.
A fridge with tomatoes, Chinese eggplant, and purple potatoes propelled me to find Braised Fennel Tomatoes with Potatoes on Group Recipes. It calls for Yukon potatoes and there is no mention of any kind of eggplant, but who cares? Independently, both vegetables are delicious. Together, they're deliciouser!
Chinese eggplant is a lighter color than its American or globe counterpart, has a thinner skin, and a more delicate flavor. I don't actually like "regular" eggplant, but I'll munch on the Asian variety with no problem.
I didn't peel any of the ingredients: the tomatoes, potato, and eggplant all kept their skins. I'm sure the presentation would be prettier if I'd removed them, but isn't that where the nutrients are?
I also omitted the Pernod. I hate the taste of licorice (which is why I cook the fennel) so I don't keep licorice-flavored alcohol in the house. You can keep your Galliano and absinth. I'll stick to the single malt.
I forgot to stock up on fennel seeds too, so I used dill weed. And then there were the addition of the extra veggies too. The original recipe states it yields 4 servings as a side dish. As a main dish--if you're being vegetarian about it--you only really get 2 servings, though your mileage may vary.
Final note: I went completely against character and used real salt and real freshly cracked pepper, not my usual fallback mix. I've slightly fallen out of love with cumin of late, so there you go.
Braised Fennel with Tomatoes, Purple Potatoes & Chinese Cabbage
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 Chinese eggplant, chopped into 3/4-inch cubes
1 large bulb fennel, trimmed, cored and thinly sliced, fronds reserved for garnish
1 teaspoon dill weed
1/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 large purple (or Peruvian) potato, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1/2-3/4 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth or water, divided
A few fennel fronds for garnish
1. Chop the eggplant and soak in slightly salted water for about 10 minutes. (Because Chinese eggplant is less bitter than regular dark-purple, globe eggplant, you can skip this step if you're short on time.)
2. Heat oil in a 10-12" skillet or sauté pan over high heat.
3. Add fennel and cook, stirring often, until it starts to brown, 4 to 5 minutes.
4. Season with dill weed, salt and pepper. Add tomatoes, bring to a simmer and cook until the tomato juices are slightly reduced, about 4 minutes.
5. Add potato and eggplant chunks with 1/2 cup broth (or water); cover the pan tightly and simmer over medium-low heat, checking every 10 minutes to make sure the pan juices don’t run dry. (If necessary, add more broth or water, 2 tablespoons at a time, to prevent scorching.)
6. Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
7. Serve garnished with parsley (or fennel fronds), if desired.
Yields 2 main servings, 4 as a side dish.