In the old days, when the Greek pantheon of deities ruled the heavens, lands and seas, things were very different. Gods were not only permitted to be tricksters, they were better loved for it. Perhaps they were the inspiration for the Pucks, Batman’s Joker, Br’er Rabbit and Lokis of other times and places. Prometheus was one such Titan. Against Zeus’s wishes, Prometheus wanted humankind, bereft of fur, speed, tusks, claws, flight or even poison, to have protection of some kind. So he stole some fire, hid it in the bowl of a fennel stalk capped with a pine cone and brought it down from Olympus for man to use.
Isn’t it odd that while miracles were everyday occurrences, communications needed runners with torches? The runner, Pheidippides, brought the Athenians the news of the Persian defeat on the fields of Marathon reportedly without stopping on the way. Marathon was the Greek word for fennel and that famous battle took place on a field of fennel. It is said that on receiving the news, the Athenians wove stalks of fennel in commemoration of the victory.
The highly aromatic fennel is native to the Mediterranean Basin, but has spread and naturalized itself in many parts of the world. The fronds, seeds and bulbs are all put to excellent and diverse culinary use by cuisines as varied as Italian, Greek, Indian, Chinese, Moroccan, Egyptian, Persian, Spanish, Mexican and Israeli.
Today’s recipe can be either grilled or braised, Fennel and Tomatoes. It capitalizes on the copious availability of both fennel and tomatoes in our market and the simplicity of summer meals. Please check the web site for other fennel and or tomato recipes especially the Sicilian Fennel and Orange Salad.