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Thursday, November 13, 2008

What To Do With... Fennel aka Anise

Let me introduce you to a good friend of mine, Fennel. Fennel, this is everybody. (I had planned to publish this great photo for our introductions today, but when I saw it on the preview, I knew it wouldn't do. So, unfortunately, we have to go without today...) (Updated November 18th, 2008 - Hungry Gal note: A photo is worth a 100 words...)

Fennel and I only met in my twenties but I feel like we have been friends forever. Fennel sometimes goes by the name Anise and is a hearty but delicate tasting vegetable. It smells lovely and herbaceous and has a mild liquorice flavour that further mellows when cooked. But we almost didn’t become friends. In my younger years, I was too haughty and impetuous, “I am not going to like fennel.., I’ll pass.” But then we met, and I realized I was wrong and now, all is forgiven and we are pals.

So, if you see Fennel at the market, I encourage you to buy a bulb or two and try it. You just might like it.

Fennel is great raw or braised. With a sophisticated yet mild flavour, it’s more versatile than you think. It’s great with rich foods like cream and butter and also pairs beautifully with seafood.

Basic Preparation:
Cut off the fronds and stalks and put aside if you wish, for garnish and stock. Trim the fennel by trimming the bottom of the bulb and cutting the fennel in half. Now that it is in a manageable size, you can dice it, slice it thinly or cut it into large chunks.

Some ideas for Fennel:

1. Roast it: Slice thinly and toss with olive oil and herbs. Bake in an oven at 400 degrees until roasted.
2. Roast it with other vegetables: Toss in olive oil and roast with other vegetables such as peppers, onions, and zucchinis. Bake in a 400 degree oven until the vegetable’s edges are crisped while the rest of the vegetable soften.

Au Gratin:
3. Baked it: Slice paper thin and add to a potato gratin with crispy bacon

Raw in a Salad:
4. Throw it in a salad: dice raw fennel and add to your next salad (alongside some juicy tomatoes, and buttery boston lettuce)
5. Shave it: Shave fennel and plate with oranges and blue cheese salad (similar to my raw beet salad)

6. Braised it: Cut in large chunks and braise in white wine with leeks or onions
7. Serve it as a main dish: Braise in white wine, with chicken thighs, cannellini beans, tomatoes and onions.

With Seafood:
7. Steam it with mussels: Dice and toss into a moules mariniere (steamed mussels)
9. Saute it: Slice thinly and saute with butter and served with a portion of salmon
10. Throw it in a crab linguine: Dice and cook in a crab linguine pasta dish. Here’s one to try out, add about 1/2c diced fennel when sautéing the garlic and chillies. http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/database/linguinewithcrab_66026.shtml

If there is an ingredient you would like to see for future, drop me a line! Suggestions are always welcome.


V said...

There's a salad recipe which I swear by involving fennel, chickpeas, red onion, thinly sliced salami, Italian parsley, garlic, olive oil
and vinegar.

But, I will certainly try it in moules mariniere as per your suggestion. Must be good!

Hungry Gal said...

@ V

this salad sound fantastic... I think you could shave the fennel really thinly... this would be very yum!

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