Fennel is that one vegetable that is forgotten often but fancied much when remembered.
The first time I tried fennel was many, many years ago. I saw it on a menu for the first time and being that I am always open to trying everything once, I decided to try it in a salad – it was raw, crunchy, white, and delicious! I saw it as a fancy, new vegetable that I could order from the menu and feel, well, fancy.
Since that fennel salad, I would often look for fennel on restaurant menus. The crunch and unique taste is quite addicting. What I found was that it was trendy for a while and I ordered it in every which way that I could – with chicken, with pork, as a side vegetable dish.
Then it disappeared again.
And I forgot about it… until now.
Fennel is one of those seasonal vegetables that is great in the Spring and Fall. I saw it in the farmer’s market the other day and decided to pick it up. It is an interesting looking veggie to say the least – a cross between an onion and celery, and beet root but white in color. And it tastes just as complicated. When eaten raw, it has the crunch of raw onion and raw celery but the flavor is a hint of licorice. When cooked, fennel is soft, nutty, and sweet and can easily absorb the flavors in its surroundings.
To prep fennel, you slice off a bit of the end and then separate the fronds. You can either throw them away or to be creative and economical, you can dice up the fronds to cook in a vegetable soup, add some pieces to a salad along with the fennel bulb, or you can use the fronds as garnish. What is the important part is the white fennel bulb.
From there you can cut the fennel bulb like you would an onion. Either dice it up or cut into slices. You can also keep the fennel a bit chunkier, similar in shape to artichoke hearts. This shape would be ideal for roasting – drizzling some olive oil and balsamic vinegar to caramelize the fennel as you would onions.
Fennel goes great with chicken and pork tenderloin. Because of the slight licorice flavor, it also goes great with Italian dishes, especially those with Italian sausage.
And of course, I can’t forget to mention that fennel is good for you! It is high in vitamin C, which is important for immune health, anti-inflammatory, and anti-aging. Vitamin C helps to reduce free radicals in your body, which are the main cause of cancer. Fennel is also high in fiber and folate, and phytonutrients that help to prevent cancer. Fennel helps to reduce cholesterol and reduce incidence of stroke.
I have not seen fennel recently on any menus… yet. It is just coming in season again. But why wait when you can buy fennel and experiment with fennel recipes at home? Here is a link to some GREAT fennel recipes from The Huffington Post. The photos in this link are enough to motivate you to buy some fennel. So go ahead and get fancy and try some fennel!
Here is a delicious, healthy, and refreshing fennel and alfalfa sprout salad I made today! Raw bello mushrooms and grape tomatoes and a slice of boiled egg with a garnish of the fennel frond. Drizzled with balsamic vinegar and some Himalayan salt and ground black pepper to round out the flavors. Hope this inspires you to make your own fennel creation!