Much of cooking is knowing which part of the plant is edible. I can still remember eating my first artichoke, choke and all. Out in the field I nibble on every part of the plant, taking the time to notice exactly what can be eaten. For this recipe, you will need: knife, wide shallow pan with a lid, zester or grater, measuring cups and spoons.

½ cup extra-virgin olive oil or butter
4 to 6 fennel bulbs, depending on their size, cut into eighths lengthwise
3 leeks, washed and sliced in quarters, lengthwise
1 teaspoon whole fennel seed, ground in a mortar or pounded with a rolling pin
1 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, diced
½ cup white wine
Zest of 2 lemons
4 cups spinach, washed and stemmed

Cut the tops off the fennel bulbs right where they begin to send out branches and trim the smallest amount off of the bottom of each bulb. The bottom core is soft and edible. Discard the outer leaves if they look tough. Cut each bulb into eighths lengthwise.

To prepare the leeks, trim off the root end and about ¼ inch of the white base. Remove any ragged, coarse outer leaves and discard. Chop the dark green tops off right where they turn light green. Slice each leek halfway down the center, starting from the root end, and soak in cool water to remove all of the soil. Drain and cut into quarters, lengthwise.

Heat up your oil or butter and add the fennel, leeks, fennel seed, garlic and salt.When the leeks are limp add the wine and cover your pan. Braise at a low flame for 30 or more minutes. What you want is for the fennel to be soft and succulent … don’t let it brown and don’t let it dry out. Add some water if it does. Keep on cooking and tasting until the fennel is soft.

At the end, add the lemon zest and 4 cups of spinach. Cook until the spinach is just wilted. Delicious as a side dish or served with Baja California diver scallops. Those can be purchased from Alicia at What a Deal Seafood… you can order the scallops and Alicia will deliver them to your doorstep the next day. (805-231-8752)

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