Thursday, March 29, 2012

How Do You Cook with Fennel?

fennel bulb

Cashier: Picking up the two fennel bulbs I was buying and examining them. "Do you cook with fennel a lot?"

Me: "Oh, yeah. All the time."

Cashier: "I’ve always wondered what to do with it. It just looks so cool, you know?"

Me: "Oh, I can give you lots of idea about how to cook with fennel. You could put it in salads or saute --"

Cashier: Waving the hands as if she were trying to stop traffic, she interrupted,  "Oh, no, no! I don't want you to tell me. I won’t actually do it. I’ve just always wondered."

In case you're wondering about fennel bulb, it's actually an herb that has been enjoyed since antiquity. When eaten raw, you'll appreciate its crunchy, refreshing celery-like texture and sweet licorice flavor. When sauteed or roasted, you'll find it morphs into something more savory, with an earthy depth of flavor. It gets along well with many ingredients but has a special affinity for citrus fruits, figs, olives, nuts, and hard cheese like Pecorino Romano and Parmesan. And those feathery fronds? They're edible too. Toss them in your salad or munch on them as a digestive aid.

So, tell me, dear readers, 
how do you cook with fennel? 

Lemony Roasted Fennel and String Beans

Lemony Roasted Fennel and String Beans
Makes 4 servings
Printable recipe.

1 fennel bulb, cut into 8 wedges
1/2 pound string beans, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
The zest of 1/2 lemon (about 1/2 teaspoon)
The juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Cut of fennel stalks. Cut bulb in half. Then in quarters, then in eights, for a total of 8 wedges. Place fennel and string beans in a large baking dish.

2. In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Pour over vegetables and toss until coated. Cover tightly with tinfoil and bake for 10 minutes. Remove the tinfoil. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons parsley and toss. Cook uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and a few brown spots appear.

3. Transfer vegetables to a platter or large bowl and drizzle with juices from the baking dish. Sprinkle with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper and remaining 1/2 tablespoon parsley.

You might also enjoy these fennel recipes: 

warm barley and fennel salad

Warm Barley and Fennel Salad recipe from Food Blogga (pictured above)

Apple, Fennel and Celery Salad recipe from Food Blogga

Shaved Fennel Salad recipe from 101 Cookbooks

Fennel, Pear, and Olive Salad recipe from The Perfect Pantry (pictured above)

Fresh Fig and Fennel Pizza recipe from Food Blogga

Roasted Zucchini and Fennel Soup recipe from Dianasaur Dishes

Pickled Fennel Agrodolce recipe from Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook (above)

Cheesy Chile, Fennel, and Potato Gratin recipe from What We're Eating