Fennel is a member of the carrot family, though it is not a root vegetable. The base of its long stalk weaves together to form a thick and crisp bulb that grows above ground. Fennel’s leaves, seeds, and stems all have a sweet, faintly anise like flavor. The stems of fennel swell and overlap at the base of the plant to form a bulb with white to pale green ribbed layers that are similar to celery in appearance and texture. Light and feathery, the pretty green leaves slightly resemble fresh dill. Use them as a bed for steaming fish or in small amounts as a garnish.
Originating in the Mediterranean, the fennel bulb appears often in Italian and Scandinavian cuisines. It can be eaten raw, grilled, baked, braised, or sautéed. While grilling, you can toss a handful of dried or fresh fennel stems onto the charcoal to infuse meat or fish with a light anise flavor.
When selecting fennel choose fresh bulbs that are smooth and tightly layered with cracks or bruises. Fat, rounded bulbs with white and pale green color will tend to be more succulent than thin or yellow ones. Avoid any with wilted leaves or dried layers. Now available year-round, fennel is at its peak from late fall through winter. Grocers sometimes incorrectly liable fennel as sweet anise.
When storing, keep fennel bulbs in a perforated plastic bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If kept too long, they will lose their flavor and toughen.
When preparing, remove the green stems and leaves, saving them to flavor or garnish other dishes such as soups or fish. Discard the outer layer of the bulb if it is tough and cut away any discolored areas. Cut the bulb in half lengthwise and remove the base of the core as it is thick and solid. Gently separate the layers with your hands and rinse well to remove any grit between them. Slice or cut as your recipe directs.
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To flavor your food reach for herbs and spices rather than high-sodium table salt. Make sure to read the labels of seasoning mixes because many of them contain salt.
Pasta: Basil, Fennel, Garlic, Paprika, Parsley, Sage
Potatoes: Chives, Garlic, Paprika, Parsley, Rosemary
Rice: Cumin, Marjoram, Parsley, Saffron, Tarragon, Thyme, Turmeric
Seafood: Chervil, Dill, Fennel, Tarragon, Parsley
Vegetables: Basil, Caraway, Chives, Dill, Marjoram, Mint, Nutmeg, Oregano, Paprika, Rosemary, Savory, Tarragon, Thyme
“Work With What You Got!”
©Tiny New York Kitchen © 2019 All Rights Reserved
Fennel is a flowering plant species that is in the carrot family. Indigenous to the Mediterranean, fennel is now grown in many parts of the world with dry soil, near seacoasts, and on riverbanks.
Fennel is highly aromatic and flavorful with culinary and medicinal uses. Florence Fennel (or Finocchio) is used as a vegetable and is one of the three main herbs used in preparation of absinthe, an alcoholic mixture that originated as a medicinal elixir in Switzerland and became, by the late 19th century, a popular alcoholic drink in France and other countries.
Fennel bulb, foliage, and seeds are used in many culinary traditions around the world. The small flowers of wild fennel (fennel pollen) are the most potent form of fennel and are also the most expensive. Dried fennel seeds are an aromatic, anise-flavored spice that are brown or green in color when fresh, and slowly turn a dull grey as the seeds age. Green seeds are the best for cooking. Fennel seeds are sometimes confused with anise, which are similar in taste and appearance, though smaller. Fennel seeds are the primary flavor component in Italian sausage.
Fennel leaves are delicately flavored and are similar, in shape, to those of dill. The bulb itself is a crisp vegetable that can be sautéed, stewed, braised, grilled, or eaten raw. Young tender leaves are used for garnishes, as a salad to add flavor to salads, to flavor sauces, in soups, and fish sauce. Fennel leaves are used in some parts of India as leafy green vegetables either by themselves or mixed with other vegetables. In Syria and Lebanon young fennel leaves are used to make a special kind of egg omelet (with onions and flour) called ijjeh.
Florence fennel is a key ingredient in some German and Italian salads that are often tossed with chicory and avocado. It can be braised and served as a warm side dish. It can also be blanched, marinated, or cooked in risotto. In Spain the stems of the fennel plant are used in the preparation of pickled eggplant called berenjenas de almagro. In Israel fennel salad is made of chopped fennel bulbs flavored with salt, black pepper, parsley, olive oil, and sometimes sumac.
“Work With What You Got!”
© Victoria Hart Glavin Tiny New York Kitchen © 2017 All Rights Reserved