Friday, April 13, 2012

Kissing Culinary Cousins

It is said that our first friends in life are our cousins. With cousins we learn the rules of friendship- how to share our toys, how to solve conflicts and how to simply get along. Cousins inspire us, challenge us, and if they are very close to us in age, become our first rivals outside of our families. What your cousins are capable of doing is an indication of your own abilities, for better or worse. True amongst humans and true within the plant kingdom. Some are beneficial, and in certain families there are those members that are extremely toxic while the rest are perfectly upright citizens ( the nightshade family is one example). Within the same family you can find potatoes , tomatoes and belladonna - how's that for a world of difference ? With those edible members of a family, combining a few usually makes for very tasty results.

Within the parsley family you will find two cousins that do not seem to be related, but historically have been used in the same plants as medicine applications- fennel and carrots. Both have been used for digestive and menstrual complaints, an eye remedy and even an aphrodisiac. In the culinary world, both become very sweet when roasted. While you might not consider using these two in a dish, the combination brings a very flavorful party to the table.

Finocchi al forno con parmigiano e Carote
(Roasted Fennel and Carrots with Parmesan)

4 fennel bulbs (about 3 1/2 pounds) cut horizontally into 1/3-inch-thick slices
2 large carrots, peeled, cut diagonally into 1/3-inch-thick slices
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly oil 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Layer sliced fennel and carrots in dish, sprinkling  layers with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with thyme, then cheese. Drizzle with oil. Bake until vegetables are tender and  top is golden brown, about 1 1/4 hours.

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