Fennel doesn’t appear on many of our Variety Box menus, but occasionally you will find it in the Gourmet box or for order ala carte. While fennel is commonly featured on the menu in a few households, it certainly hasn’t hit the mainstream yet here in Idaho. So what is Fennel?
It looks a little like celery, tastes a little like licorice, but the best thing about fennel is it’s not like anything else. Eaten fresh, it offers a distinct crunch and aromatic sweetness. It’s feathery fronds can be used as an herb or a garnish, while the cooking-friendly bulb can be sliced and roasted as in the recipe below.
Fennel is a popular European vegetable, especially in Italy and France. Also known as Sweet Anise. Not to be confused with herb anise, which is grown for its seeds and sold as seasoning. Fennel is a cold weather vegetable that is grown year round except in July and August. It is a good source of potassium and vitamin C. It is fat and cholesterol free and low in both calories and sodium.
Storage: Refrigerate unwashed, in a plastic bag up to 1 week.
Uses & Preparation: Trim off stalks where they meet bulbs.
- Rinse bulb and separate layers; cut into strips to use on a vegetable platter.
- Slice or dice for stews, soups and stuffing.
- Fronds can be used as garnish or to season soups or stew.
- Add to salads. A traditional salad combines sliced fennel with peeled, sliced oranges; drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
- Quarter bulbs, then boil or steam until tender. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs and bake. Or top with cream sauce and cheese, then bake casserole-style.
Baked Fennel with Prosciutto and Parmesan
- 1 bulb fennel, greens trimmed
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/8 cup butter, melted
- 1/8 cup marsala wine
- 1/8 cup bite-size prosciutto strips
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 T. chopped basil
- fresh parmesan cheese
Directions: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Trim away stem ends of the fennel. Place cut side down on a cutting board and slice very thinly. Place in a 13”x9” baking dish and sprinkle with garlic. Drizzle with butter and marsala, then top with prosciutto. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake for about 20 minutes or until anise is soft and prosciutto is crisp. Remove from oven and sprinkle with basil. With a vegetable peeler, cut large shavings of cheese over dish. Makes 4 servings.