A few days ago, I was reading a recipe for Fennel & Basil Chickpea Salad on Becca’s Green Kitchen – a wonderful blog for vegetarian cooking – and I was surprised to see that it called for sauteing the fennel. I have only used raw fennel in salads. I have used cooked fennel in soups, but not in ages; and I actually had forgotten about doing so until I read Becca’s blog. When I commented on this, Becca encouraged me to give cooked fennel a new try. So this morning – as part of my Let The Inspiration In Challenge – our breakfast special was a Bacon, Mushroom and Fennel Omelette served with a side of fresh fruit and a strawberry buttermilk muffin. I hope that Becca isn’t cringing over my having used bacon, but for the group of guests that I had this morning, I thought that would be an appealing special. The guests who ordered the omelette gave it two thumbs up and told me that they liked the texture and flavor of the fennel with the mushrooms and bacon. Having now tried cooked fennel for the first time in a long while, I have a greater appreciation for this vegetable’s versatility. Raw fennel is quite crunchy and has a strong licorice flavor which I enjoy. Cooked, it has a subtle herbaceous flavor and, I think, is not recognizable as the same vegetable. Becca said that she caramelizes hers so that it gets almost a charred flavor. To cook the fennel this morning, I sauteed it in olive oil until crisp-tender and seasoned it with sea salt and fresh ground green and pink peppercorns. (While it was cooking, I sauteed mushrooms and cooked bacon, then tossed them together for the omelette filling before topping the filling with cheese.) Having new found appreciation for fennel, I can imagine sauteing it for use in pasta dishes and risottos as well as in Becca’s chickpea salad – which I am definitely going to make, just not for breakfast. Thanks for the inspiration, Becca and forgive me for the bacon!