The fennel plant with its feathery green leaves springing from the long stalks that grow out of a white or pale green bulb is an unusual plant. One often holds it up, examines it and has no clue what to do with it.
Fennel’s texture is similar to that of celery and is crunchy and crisp. Fresh fennel is delicious and offers subtle hints of licorice flavor. If you don’t like the flavor of licorice or anise you might not be partial to fennel. The root vegetable originated in the Mediterranean countries of Greece and Italy.
Slather it with your favorite blue cheese, herbed goat cheese or hummus and it will be a sure hit at your next potluck event.
The whole plant is edible and full of vitamins, nutrients and minerals including vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, iron, folate and calcium. When the fennel plant goes to seed, it produces fennel seed, which is used in many Indian dishes. Fennel seed is also a digestive and the tea is great for healing a stomach ache. Fennel tea has been used for babies with colic. It is also said to help reduce congestion, increase the flow of breast milk and alleviate pain of insect bites and sore throats.
Cool off with fennel. According to ancient, holistic Ayurvedic medicine, fennel has a cooling effect on the body. Try some iced fennel tea to cool off on a hot summer day. Fennel is also known to calm nerves and promote mental clarity. The calcium in fennel can help maintain bone health, reduce acne and lower blood pressure. With all these claims one might consider acquiring a taste for fennel.
For the foodie in all of us, fennel can be prepared in many ways. But first start by prepping it. Chop off the fennel stalks — they are a bit tough — but save them for soup stock. Trim the feathery frons, they can be used fresh or dried and added to soups, salads and fish for garnish. Peel off the marred or wilted outer layers of the bulb, if any. Then cut the bulb in half. Remove the hard middle core.
Watch Priya Hutner’s video Prepping fennel
Summer dishes with fennel
If you are using fennel for dips or in crudité, peel each stalk off the bulb. Slather it with your favorite blue cheese, herbed goat cheese or hummus and it will be a sure hit at your next potluck event. The cheese and licorice combo is delightful.
For salads take the bulb and cut the halves into quarters and slice the fennel crosswise. Fennel is excellent raw in salads and creates a flavorful boost to any summer salad. Tomato, fennel and avocado salad with a light vinaigrette dressing is light and refreshing.
Grilling fennel is amazing. Serve it with other veggies and it lends a unique flavor to a grilled veggie sandwich. It’s excellent served with pasta, too, and pairs well with fish, particularly salmon, but lovely with snapper, too. Summer calls for chilled soups. One to try is an asparagus and fennel soup with a hint of cream, salt and pepper.
Fennel is abundant during the year and fun to create cooling summer dishes with. I recently prepared two delicious dishes with fennel: a fennel pesto and a fennel and snapper dish. I purchased the fresh snapper from the Little Fish Company at local farmers’ market.
Watch Priya Hutner’s video making fennel pesto
Fennel Pesto Recipe
From the kitchen of Priya Hutner
1 large fennel bulb & fronds
½ C pine nuts or walnuts
1-2 cloves garlic
½ C extra virgin olive oil
½ C Parmesan cheese (substitute ¼ cup of nutritional yeast for nondairy version)
Salt & pepper to taste
Toss in blender. Add water to thin to desired consistency. Serve over pasta or on top of grilled fish.
Enjoy fennel and let us know what you do with it.
Share your recipe at facebook.com/TheTahoeWeekly.
Next on my list: A fall/winter fennel dish is Fennel Al Forno, baked with mozzarella, Parmesan and bread crumbs.