Once in the midst of a seemingly endless winter, I found within myself an invincible spring.
Though our days are filled with sunshine, the nights are still cool and the mountain peaks are still frosted with a layer of clean snow, glowing like alabaster in the fading sun. Nothing warms up a cool spring evening like a bowl of lamb stew. It's something I crave when the weather begins to warm, and I set the table out under the trees. We're still wrapped in sweaters and scarfs at dinner time, but it's nice to eat outside again.
I found a few gorgeous heads of fennel at the market yesterday, lacy and delicate. They seemed to call to me as I passed by and I couldn't resist. I also picked up some plump spring peas. Tender and sweet, they taste like rain.
I prepared this stew in the slow cooker, but it can just as easily be prepared in the oven. Just cut the cooking time in half, and use a cast iron Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid. When cutting the fennel remove the leafy tops and reserve them for garnish. Cut the bottom off the bulb and peal away any browned or discolored spots on the outer layer. Slice the bulb in half lengthwise, and then cut each half into 3 or 4 wedges making sure each piece is held together by a bit of the core. This will insure that it stays together during cooking and will look nice on the table. Serve the stew with a good, hearty loaf of bread to sop up all the beautiful juice.