Fennel is a whitish bulb with long, light-green stems and feathery leaves. I cut the stems off before I remembered to take a photo, but here's what my bulb looked like.
Raw fennel is crisp with a spicy, black licorice taste. When cooked, it (supposedly) loses the harshness and takes on a soft nutty flavor. After some research, I chose Rachel Ray's Good Fennels Pasta, because she hadn't let me down before!
As I was cooking, I uttered the famous last words, "I hope this is good... because this recipe is making a LOT!"
Turns out that I must have done something wrong. It wasn't very good. Salvageable, but not good. Not enough sauce and the fennel wasn't soft like the onions and peppers were... I added an extra two cups of tomato sauce and some parmesan cheese and baked it for 30 minutes, which helped, but it was still a crunchy-licoricely-studded fennel minefield.
In the end, I've learned that there are only a few foods that I will pick off of my plate: blueberries, blue cheese, and now... fennel. (And, believe me, I have been picking and picking during lunch this week... ah, leftovers.)
I'm not done, though. Maybe next year I'll get up the courage to try it again...
On the bright side, the next night we had hamburgers topped with a thick slice of an heirloom tomato (in place of ketchup, for me). They were delicous! I ate the rest of the tomato with some salt and pepper!
We also bought a pound of okra, and I fried it to go with the hamburgers. I adapted Paula Deen's recipe, but it turned out to be a little bland for us. Nothing salt couldn't fix, though!