Flavorful saute features fennel, sausage



My Italian-born mother instilled in me a love for many foods of her homeland, especially the fresh fruit and vegetables hard to find here in the States when I was growing up in the '60s and '70s. Chief among them was fennel. The crisp, slightly sweet, gently licorice-flavored vegetable was a favorite snack eaten raw.

Nowadays I use it most often in cooking. Its aromatic properties and mellowed flavor when cooked are the basis of this dish. Added are other fragrant vegetables - leeks and onions - and white beans and chicken sausage for heft. Because so much of fennel is usually tossed aside, this recipe calls for a quick broth made with the stalks and other trimmings. Substitute chicken broth if that's too much bother.

Joe Gray writes for the Chicago Tribune, which provided the recipe and analysis.

Aromatic Fennel Saute With Beans and Sausage

Serves 4 -- Total time: 40 minutes

1 large fennel bulb, cored, chopped, stalks and 1/2 cup fronds, reserved

3 cups water

1 teaspoon salt (divided use)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 onions, coarsely chopped

2 large leeks, halved, rinsed, sliced

1/2 teaspoon red-pepper flakes (divided use)

1 can (14 1/2 ounces) white beans, drained

6 precooked chicken sausages, sliced

freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup grated cheese, such as Asiago, parmesan or Romano

Roughly chop the fennel stalks; heat the stalks, other trimmings, water and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer; cook until just tender, about 15 minutes. Strain broth into a medium bowl; discard stalks and trimmings.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat; add onions, leeks, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of red-pepper flakes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the chopped fennel bulb; cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add a little fennel broth if mixture becomes dry.

Stir in beans, sliced sausage, remaining 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon of the red-pepper flakes and black pepper to taste; cook until warmed through, adding more fennel broth if needed. Serve in bowls, topped with grated cheese and chopped fennel fronds.

Per serving: 544 calories, 30 grams fat, 9 grams saturated fat, 137 milligrams cholesterol, 40 grams carbohydrate, 28 grams protein, 1,827 milligrams sodium, 9 grams fiber

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