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In the Kitchen: Fennel and Parmesan Spread

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Fall has to be one of the best seasons of the year. The weather is just starting to get chilly enough to slip into my favorite cashmere sweater and pull on my boots. The shelves at the grocery store are overflowing with Halloween candy (okay, so maybe that’s not the best thing), pumpkins, and a colorful array of every size and shape squash. But, the best part of fall, at least in my world, is that football is finally back and I can spend Sunday afternoons cheering on my favorite teams.

In the fall, my Sundays are leisurely. It’s the one day of the week that I allow myself to sleep in and relax over a few cups of coffee. Sometimes, I’m even so lazy that I keep my pajamas on all day and entice my husband to do the same. I’ll usually cook a big breakfast, but then come mid-afternoon, I’ll toss together a appetizers to share over a bottle of wine and the final football games of the day. One of my favorite recipes is a twist on the Southern classic that combines artichoke hearts, mayonnaise, and Parmesan. My recipe for Fennel and Parmesan spread is much healthier and aromatic. It’s perfect spread over thick slices of sourdough bread–and it holds up to lots of cheering and jumping up and down.

Fennel and Parmesan Spread

3 medium sized fennel bulbs, trimmed, cored and thinly sliced

4 T unsalted butter

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 small yellow onion, finely minced

3 T ground fennel seed

1/2 cup of white vermouth

1 cup of grated parmesan cheese, finely grated (Please don’t use the stuff in the can)

In a heavy skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and fennel and cook until the onion is golden and the fennel begins to caramelize. Add the garlic and continue to cook until the fennel is soft. Add the ground fennel seed and the white vermouth. Cook until the vermouth evaporates. Turn off heat and let cool.

In a food processor, process the fennel mixture until finely chopped, but not completely smooth. Transfer mixture to a buttered oven-proof dish and stir in the parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with a bit more parmesan cheese and bake at 350º until bubbly and brown.

Serve with thin slices of fresh sourdough bread.

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