Fennel, a plant of the parsley family, is native to the Mediterranean. It looks a little like celery, except that it has a broad, bulbous base and tastes like anise. The fennel salad Basbas ($7.95) at Saffron (2006 Lexington, 713-522-3562), named after a small town in northern Algeria, is a perfect showcase for this exquisite vegetable. The finely diced fennel has been braised until it's no longer recognizable, except from its flavor. It's married with roasted peppers and piled in a pyramidal shape on a bed of field greens, then topped with a slice of goat cheese. Instead of confusing these flavors, a captivating honey-ginger vinaigrette adds to their complexity.
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