Fennel. What the heck is it and how do you use it?
This is a question that’s been posed to me many times over the past year. We bought some fennel yesterday at the Farmers’ Market in the Triangle. It was very beautiful with vibrant green, feathery looking leaves. An older man approached us and asked how to cook fennel. I gave him the run down- I was excited to talk about it with him, but I think he got way more information than he wanted. This same scenario happened about a month ago at the Sunset Valley Farmers’ Market. As I was loading the car, a woman walks over and asked how I use fennel. We had a long conversation about the different uses and recipes. I’ve also been asked at the grocery store by curious shoppers and cashiers.
I’m a newbie to fennel, but I have a couple of tried and true recipes that I will share with you today. I buy this stuff pretty often- at least once or twice a month. For a couple of years now I have loaded it into my salad at Whole Foods. There are many things I love about that salad bar- roasted fennel being one of them. I found that if I went on a day when they didn’t have it, I felt like my salad bar experience just wasn’t complete. Almost as if I was being cheated. I figured I needed to learn how to make it so I could get my fix whenever I needed it.
I looked it up online, bought my first fennel bulb and off I went to the kitchen. It turned out tasty- the first try, the second, and so on. I’ve yet to botch a batch of fennel and so now it’s become one of my favorites! Here are a couple of recipes that I make often:
One fennel bulb
sea salt and pepper
Clean the fennel and take off the first layer of leaves to get all of the dirt out. All of the leafy, dill looking stuff gets tossed. Slice it thinly and lay on a cookie sheet. Pour olive oil over, not too much, just enough to make sure it’s all covered. Sprinkle it with the salt and pepper. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes or until it looks like it’s getting a little brown and crispy. Take out of the oven and sprinkle parmessan cheese over. Place back in the oven for another 5 minutes. Remove, stir and serve either by itself or in a salad (my favorite).
Roasted Fennel and Beet Salad
One fennel bulb, cleaned, sliced and roasted (use above recipe)
3 Medium sized beets
1 Can of mandarin orange slices
1/4 Cup crumbled Feta cheese
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinaigrette
Peel beets and cut into cubes. Boil until soft. While the beets are boiling, prepare the roasted fennel. Drain the beets and rinse. Transfer to a large bowl and combine the remaining ingredients. Stir and eat immediately or refrigerate and serve chilled.
A side note- both beets and fennel are in season and available at the Farmers’ Market. Makes for a very healthy meal, rich in vitamins and antioxidants!