This week I am on the letter “F” and while I would love to devote the site to FOO FIGHTERS in honor of their awesome Grammy wins (I got to go! We were in the audience at the live outdoor concert! OMG!!), I think that Fennel would be more appropriate.
I love fennel. Its one of my favorite veggies, and spices! It is known as finocchio in Italy, and the bulbs are sometimes labeled sweet anise (although anise is a different plant – a perennial herb). It is native to the Mediterranean and thrives in similar climates. Bulb, leaves, stem, and seed all have a sweet anise scent and flavor. Its thin feathery leaves and flat, multi-flower heads are akin to dill. Of the several varieties, the Florence fennel is grown mainly for its bulb, while the common fennel is used primarily for its curved and ridged seed.
As a vegetable, fennel bulb is delicious grilled, sautéed, braised, or shaved thin and tossed raw into a salad, as in this recipe. The seeds are best toasted and ground, but turn up whole in tomato sauces, Italian sausages, and rye breads. They are believed to aid digestion, and consequently are an integral component of mukhwas, the colorful, sugar-coated seeds served after Indian meals to freshen breath and assist digestion.
Fennel stalks make excellent smoking matter too, lit under roasting meats and fish to impart a unique flavor. Fennel pollen is a fine powder easily airborne, and coveted by adventurous chefs for its uncommon form and price tag as much as its flavor. It has the distinct scent of fennel with a hint of curry.
Orange, Fennel and Onion Salad
This salad blends three flavors and textures in a most refreshing way. Try serving it as an accompaniment to grilled chicken or fish.
(If you’d like a hot fennel dish, you’ll find a nice recipe for apple, fennel, and onions a few weeks back when I wrote about Caraway.)
Prep Time: 30 minutes, plus at least 1 hour cooling time
Juice and zest of 1 lime (about 1 TB. juice)
1/2 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup olive oil
3 sweet oranges, sliced into supremes
1 bulb fennel, shaved thin
1 medium purple onion, chopped and soaked in cold water for
In a large bowl mix together lime zest and juice, honey, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and mint. Drizzle in olive oil while whisking. Add oranges, fennel and onion, and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour to allow flavors to mingle.