Friday, September 21, 2007


What is finocchio? It's a vegetable which is more commonly used in Italy; its proper English name is "fennel." It looks and has a texture similar to a semi-spherical celery (but less hard and not stringy) and with a light but unobtrusive anise flavor. I myself am not an anise lover, but I like fennel.

It is good raw. The Italians will often put it in their insalata mista, with lettuce, freshly cut carrot and freshly cut fennel. I have also seen a raw salad made only of finely cut carrots and fennel, with salt, pepper and olive oil.

Fennel, for some reason, is also one of those things that turn out quite well in the ole microwave. Don't think the Italians use microwaves? Of course they do- they call it the microonde (MEE-croh-OHN-deh). For an easy side dish, wash and quarter your fennel (which you will have trimmed of its extremities and fronds). Place symmetrically in microwave-safe dish. Add salt, freshly ground pepper. Liberally cover with real butter (no margarine) and parmesan or a soft cheese like fontina or taleggio. Cook for five minutes, check for doneness with a knife tip, continue cooking till done in 30 second increments. Do not overcook.

If you are in Italy or among Italians and they give you a queer look when you mention finocchio, it's because it is queer. Yes, the healthy low-cal little veggie is slang for "gay."

In the picture, we see a clever publicity campaign for a supermarket in which a long-nosed fennel is compared to Pinocchio. A Pinocchio Finocchio. But this is no lie- fennel is good and healthy eating.