>Fennel

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Fennel has two popularly known forms—the first is the one we see growing wild in various neighborhoods, six-feet-tall, ferny fronds swaying in the wind, and yellow flower heads giving off the unmistakeable scent of licorice. This is the perennial form—the stalks and leaves are full of flavor and scent, and it reproduces prolifically from seed. The second form is the annual, bulbing fennel, or “Finocchio”. It is tricky to grow without bolting to seed, and temperamental and sensitive in it’s culture. It’s leaves lack flavor, but the stems are decently flavorful and crunchy. But, the real heart is in the swollen stem at the base. Tender and crunchy as celery, but full of the juicy flavor of anise.

To prepare it, wash and trim the stalks so that the bulb itself forms a tidy little package. It can then be sliced, quartered, or shaved. Then, it can be steamed, or sautéed, roasted, grilled, or fried. Braising is also an excellent way to prepare a fennel bulb.

FENNEL AND CHICKEN SALAD

2 medium heads Fennel
2 cups chopped Chicken or Turkey
1 large Shallot, minced
1 cup Mayonnaise
1/2 tsp. Dijon Mustard
2 tbsp. Pernod (optional)
Salt and Pepper

1. Trim the stems from the fennel and peel the bottoms. Chop the fronds so you have about 1 tablespoon and reserve. Chop the bulbs and  combine with the chicken and shallot in a medium bowl.

2. Beat the mayonnaise with the mustard and Pernod in a large bowl until smooth. Add the fennel and chicken mixture. Mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with the chopped fennel fronds.

HOME-FRIED FENNEL AND POTATO HASH

1 small to medium head Fennel
2 medium Potatoes
2 strips Bacon
1 tbsp. Butter
1 small Onion, chopped
1 clove Garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp. Fennel Seeds
Salt and Pepper
1. Trim the stems from the fennel and peel the bottoms. Chop the fronds and reserve.
2. Cook the fennel bulbs with the potatoes in boiling salted water, 12 minutes. Drain and allow to cool. Chop the bulbs and the potatoes, separately, into about 1-inch pieces.
3. Fry the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Add the butter to the skillet. Add the onion, cook 1 minute. Add the garlic, cook 1 minute more. Add a layer of potatoes to the skillet. Add a layer of fennel pieces. Sprinkle with fennel seeds and salt and pepper. Continue to layer until all the vegetables are used up. End with either potatoes or fennel. Cook over medium heat until the bottom is nicely browned. Turn over in one piece with a large spatula, or flip into another skillet. Reduce the heat and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
4. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle it over the fennel-potato mixture. Sprinkle with the chopped fennel fronds.
CREAM OF FENNEL SOUP
3 Fennel Bulbs with fronds
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 small Onion, chopped
2 cups Chicken Stock
1/2 tsp. Salt
Pepper
2 tbsp. Anise Liqueur
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1. Trim the fennel, removing the thin stalks and thick base. Reserve 2 tbsp. of the fronds. Coarsely chop the bulbs; you should have about 3 1/2 cups.
2. Place the oil in a 2-quart casserole and microwave on full power, uncovered, for 2 minutes. Stir in the onion and chopped fennel, cover and cook 6 minutes, stirring after 3 minutes. The vegetables should be just crisp-tender. (Personally, I would just do this part in the soup pot, sautéeing in a bit of butter or olive oil.)
3. Transfer mixture to a food processor, add 1 cup of stock and purée until smooth. Pour the soup back into the casserole and add the remaining 1 cup stock. Microwave, uncovered, 3 minutes. (Again, I’d put it all back in the stock pot and heat it up.)
4. Stir in the salt, pepper, liqueur, cream, and the reserved fronds. Cook, uncovered, 2 minutes. Whisk together and serve.
BRAISED FLORENCE FENNEL (FINNOCHIO)

Cut the leafy tops and stem ends off several fennel bulbs and peel away any bruised outer layers. Chop fine a few sprigs of the leaves and reserve. Cut the bulbs in half lengthwise through their cores, and cut each half into 2 or 3 equal wedges. 
Put the fennel wedges in a saucepan with a good inch of water, a liberal dousing of olive oil, a generous sprinkling of freshly ground fennel seed, and the chopped fennel leaves; season with salt. Cover adn cook over moderate heat for about 20 minutes, shaking occasionally, until the fennel weges are soft and can be pierced through easily with a knife but are still intact. Add a little more water during cooking, if needed, to maintain a small amount of liquid in the bottom of the pan. The olive oil and water should emulsify into a flavorful, thick broth.
3. Squeeze in some lemon juice to balance the olive oil. Adjust the seasoning. Serve the fennel with a little of the lemony broth.
CARAMELIZED FENNEL
2 large Fennel Bulbs
1/4 cup Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
1. Trim the fennel bulbs, removing any tough outer layers. Cut the bulbs in half vertically, cut out the cores, and cut the bulbs into 1/2-inch-thick slices.
2. Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the olive oil, and when the oil is hot, add the sliced fennel. (If necessary, cook the fennel in two batches. the fennel should brown, not steam.) Cook tossing or stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the fennel is caramelized and tender. Season with salt and pepper. Drain off any excess oil and serve. (This holds well and can easily be reheated; no additional oil is necessary.) Serve with fish and with grilled meats and poultry, or use for a pizza topping.
FENNEL STEWED WITH WILD FENNEL
2 large Fennel Bulbs
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 handful Wild Fennel Leaves and Flowers
1 tbsp. Fennel Seed
1 pinch Red Pepper Flakes
1 tsp. Salt
1 tbsp. Lemon Juice
1. Clean and trim the fennel bulbs and cut into eighths. Put them in a saucepan with the olive oil and 3/4 cup water and stew them over medium heat for 5 minutes, covered. 
2. Chop fine the wild fennel leaves and flowers, grind the fennel seed, and add to the stew with the red pepper and salt. 
3. Stir, raise the heat slightly, and cook until the liquid has nearly evaporated and the fennel is cooked through and soft, about 10 more minutes. 
4. Remove the pan from the heat and toss the fennel with the lemon juice.
Chez Panisse Vegetables

ORANGE, BEET, AND FENNEL SALAD

10 medium Beets, about 2 inches in diameter
6 Oranges
1/4 cup Raspberry Vinegar
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 to 2 tsp. Minced Garlic
1 small Fennel Bulb, thinly sliced
Finely minced Fennel Tops, for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 375°, and line a baking dish with foil. Trim the leaves from the beets, place them in the dish, and cover with foil. Bake until they are soft enough to be pierced easily with a fork (about 1 hour). Set aside to cool.
2. Use a serrated knife to cut the peel from the oranges, then section the oranges into a medium-sized bowl to catch all the juice. (Just cut with a sawing motion along the membranes to release the sections.) Squeeze the remaining juice into the bowl and discard the membranes.
3. When the beets are cool enough to handle, use  a small, sharp paring knife to peel them. Cut them first in half, and then into thin half-moon-shaped slices.
4. Transfer the bets to the bowlful of oranges, and add the vinegar, salt and garlic. Stir gently until well combined.
5. Add the sliced fennel and stir again. Cover tightly and chill until serving time. The whole salad will turn an amazing color. Serve with a light sprinkling of fennel tops.
Mollie Katzen’s Vegetable Heaven

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One response to “>Fennel

  1. Pingback: Summer Week 10: An Edible Trip to Italy | Whistling Train Farm

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