Such information seasons their books on cooking vegetables Italian style. Which brings us to finocchio (pronounced like Pinocchio). That’s Italian for the pale white bulb with feathery fronds called fennel. How each cook handles this lovely vegetable offers a delicious peek inside each author’s book — Boswell’s unadorned approach to vegetables, Sciciolone’s mix of rustic and refined, and Marchetti’s tradition and innovation.
By Christopher Boswell
The Little Bookroom, $22
Boswell, an American, is executive chef at the Rome Sustainable Food Project (an Alice Waters-guided effort), at the American Academy in the Italian capital. His small book of recipes served at the academy is arranged by seasons, includes prep techniques, history and a bit on seasonality (i.e. a vegetable’s place in its growing season determines how to cook it).
SHAVED FENNEL WITH LEMON JUICE, PARSLEY & PARMESAN
Trim 2 fennel bulbs. Cut each in half lengthwise; remove tough outer layer. Soak fennel in water for 30 minutes to remove dirt lodged within; drain. Shave fennel as thinly as possible with a knife or mandoline. Spread fennel on a platter. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Squeeze juice of 1 lemon evenly over fennel. Drizzle with ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil. Using a peeler, shave 1 ounce grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano atop. Garnish with leaves from 12 parsley sprigs.
Makes: 4 servings
‘The Italian Vegetable Cookbook’
By Michele Scicolone
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30
New Yorker Scicolone, who has written more than a dozen cookbooks, fills her antipasto-to-dessert book with recipes from her grandmother and others culled from her travel around Italy. Her tips on vegetable shopping, cleaning and storage are especially helpful.
ROASTED FENNEL AND POTATOES WITH GARLIC
Trim 1 large fennel bulb; cut through core into 1/2-inch thick wedges. (Leaving core attached helps slices keep their shape.) Slice 1 pound waxy potatoes such as Yukon Gold into ¼-inch thick slices. Brush a 17-by-12-by-1-inch baking pan with 11/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil. Add fennel and potato slices in a single layer. Brush tops and sides with another 11/2 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast vegetables in a 425-degree oven for 20 minutes, or until browned. Mince 1 large clove garlic. Flip vegetables then sprinkle with garlic, plus additional salt and pepper to taste. Bake 10 minutes longer, or until vegetables are tender and browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Makes: 4 servings
‘The Glorious Vegetables of Italy’
By Domenica Marchetti
Chronicle Books, $30
Spend time with the Vegetable Essentials chapter (36-plus explained, plus some images as well as info on herbs, ingredients and equipment), then dig into the recipes including a few preserves and condiments. The book is Marchetti’s third “Glorious” title (also “The Glorious Pasta of Italy” and “The Glorious Soups and Stews of Italy”) and fifth Italian cookbook.
ARUGULA, FENNEL AND ORANGE SALAD
Spread 4 ounces arugula on a large, round serving platter. Cut off the tops and bottoms of 2 blood oranges and 1 navel orange. Stand each orange on end, then slice around them to remove the peel and membrane. Slice oranges crosswise into thin wheels. Arrange blood oranges in a ring at outer edge of arugula, overlapping slices slightly. Use navel orange slices to form an inner ring. Thinly slice ½ red onion; scatter atop orange slices. Trim and quarter 1 small fennel bulb, then thinly slice. Arrange fennel slices atop oranges in a pattern of rays. Mound extra slices in center. Drizzle several tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil over salad. Sprinkle with fleur de sel. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
Makes: 4 to 6 servings