From stem to bulb, fennel not only offers great health benefits but also elevates the culinary and gastronomic experience. Fennel is an aromatic plant of Mediterranean origin. Its feather-like leaves and seeds have a light aniseed flavor. Fennel complements lamb and vegetables nicely, and it’s especially lovely in marinades or chopped raw in a salad.
This crunchy vegetable is packed with vitamin C and fiber. Studies show that vitamin C concentrates in the bulb of the fennel, offering antibacterial power and aiding the immune system. Fennel is also rich in potassium.
Fennel becomes available in early autumn. Look for bulbs that are whitish, firm, and solid, having no signs of splitting or bruising. The stalks should be green in color and relatively straight, not splayed much to the sides. Leaves should be green with no signs of flowering buds. Fresh quality fennel offers a fragrant aroma of licorice and anise.
Much like an onion, fennel has layers, making it much easier to cut when some of the base is still intact. Depending on what a recipe calls for, here are tips on how to cut and prepare fennel:
- Cut the stalks away from the bulb at the place where they meet.
- Cut vertically through the bulb. If the recipe calls for diced or chopped fennel, remove the hard core in the center before cutting.
- If braising, baking, or grilling the fennel, first cut the bulb in half. Cut particularly large bulbs once more to make wedges.
- For thin slices, cut the bulb in half. Next, lay each half on a cutting board, flat side down. Slice across the bulb in thin, even slices.
Fennel Salad with Thyme Vinaigrette
- 3 bulbs fennel with fronds, thinly sliced
- 2 cups arugula or fresh greens
- 1 small red onion, sliced thin
- 2 tsp. fresh thyme, chopped
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
- 2 tsp. orange juice
- Salt and pepper
- Fresh shaved Parmesan cheese
Directions1. Combine fennel, fronds, red onion, and arugula in a salad bowl.2. In a small bowl or blender, combine thyme, orange juice, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. While whisking or blending, slowly incorporate olive oil to emulsify dressing.3. Gently toss salad in dressing and plate. Finish with a few shavings of fresh Parmesan.
Prosciutto Wrapped Honeydew with Fennel and Brie
- ½ honeydew melon, cut into cubes
- ½ lb. thinly-shaved prosciutto
- Small Brie round, thinly sliced
- 1 fresh fennel root, shaved
- Salt and pepper
1. Lay prosciutto flat on a cutting board and sprinkle with salt and pepper.2. Layer a thin piece of Brie along with a few shavings of fennel.3. Place the cube of honeydew at the end of the prosciutto and roll up the prosciutto until the entire piece of honeydew is wrapped.4. Use a toothpick or small skewer for presentation.