Rice with Fennel and Ricotta

This is a delicate and aromatic dish.   Because it bridges two seasons (the fennel is a winter vegetable and ricotta is traditionally a spring product), it will work as a first course with second courses from either season)

Ingredients:

2 cups water
1 fennel blub, cut in half, cored, and thinly sliced (including greens, which should be kept whole)
Salt
1 cup rice (we prefer Uncle Ben’s or basmati)
1 pound ricotta
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese.

Directions:

Bring the water to a boil in a medium pot over high heat.

Add the fennel slices and stems to the water, with salt to taste.  Boil the fennel for about 15 minutes, until it is tender.   Remove the fennel from the water with a slotted spoon or a small strainer.   Discard the stems.   Reserve the water.

Heat the broiler

Add the rice to the fennel water.   Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then cover, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer the rice until it has absorbed all of the liquid, about 10 to 15 minutes.

In a bowl, combine the fennel, rice, ricotta, parsley, nutmeg, and salt and pepper to taste.   Pour the rice mixture into a 9-inch ovenproof dish.   Add the grated cheese and place the rice under the broiler for about 5 minutes, until the cheese melts and browns.

Serves 4

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