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Braised Fennel Wedges with Saffron and Tomato Recipe

This vegetarian recipe uses whole fennel bulbs with saffron for a dish that pairs well with rice or seafood.

From "Vegetable Literacy"
May/June 2016

  • Braised Fennel Wedges
    Braised fennel wedges with saffron and tomato makes a delicious meal paired with any type of seafood or black rice.
    Photo by Christopher Hirsheimer and Melissa Hamilton
  • Saffron threads
    Saffron adds color and flavor to a rich, simple summer dish.
    Photo by iStock
  • Fennel bulb
    Fennel is an ingredient that pairs well with seafood.
    Photo by iStock
  • Braised Fennel Wedges
  • Saffron threads
  • Fennel bulb

Total Hands-On Time: 30 min

Preparation Time: 5 min

Cook Time: 25 min

Yield: 4 servings

Fennel is a natural with seafood, so you might pair this dish with halibut or seared scallops. It’s also good with rice, and black rice makes for an especially dramatic—and delicious—pairing. Be sure to leave the core in the fennel bulb. It’s what holds the wedges together.


• 2 large fennel bulbs
• 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 onion, thinly sliced
• 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
• Good pinch of saffron threads
• 1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme
• 1 clove garlic, crushed
• 3 tablespoons tomato paste
• 1-1⁄2 cups Fennel Stock, chicken stock or water
• 1 teaspoon sea salt
• 1 tablespoon butter
• Freshly ground pepper
• Minced fennel greens or fresh flat-leaf parsley

Fennel Stock:

• Trimmings from 1 or 2 fennel bulbs
• 1 onion, sliced
• Root ends and/or firm dark green tops from 1 or 2 leeks
• Trimmings from 1 or 2 handfuls of mushrooms
• Trimmings from 1 or more tomatoes, if available
• 1 teaspoon sea salt


1. Trim stalks and greens from fennel bulbs. (Mince greens for a garnish. If there are none, use parsley.) If the outer thick leaves of the bulbs look tough and scarred, take a slice off the base to loosen them and set them aside for another use, such as fennel stock. Halve each bulb lengthwise and cut halves into wedges about 1-1⁄2 inches at the widest part.

2. Heat olive oil in a wide sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and fennel seeds, crumble in saffron and thyme, and cook until the steam releases color from the saffron, several minutes.

3. Add fennel wedges and cook until golden, tossing fennel and onions occasionally.

4. Once they are well colored, add garlic, stir in tomato paste, and then add stock and salt. Scrape pan to release juices, then cover and simmer until fennel is tender, another 15 minutes. Serves 4.

Fennel Stock:

1. Put all ingredients in a pot and cover generously with 4 to 5 cups cold water.

2. Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes, by which time the vegetables will be spent.

3. Strain stock, then use immediately or store. It will keep refrigerated for 1 week.

Get more recipes for summer produce in Super-Easy Summertime Vegetable Recipes.

Deborah Madison, the author of more than 10 cookbooks filled with recipes for glorious seasonal produce, has lately trained her attention on plant families. In Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom, with over 300 Deliciously Simple Recipes, from which this article is excerpted, she explores ingredients as members of 12 families, discovering how developing an understanding of how plants relate to one another botanically helps her use plants more effectively in the kitchen. Filled with fascinating new insights for any vegetable-loving cook, this wonderful book is available in our store: Vegetable Literacy

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