After posting this week’s salad recipe “That’s Italian!”, a friend emailed me and asked, “how do you prepare fennel?” It seems to be one of those veggies that we have seen in the market, or have read in a list of ingredients, and perhaps a little unfamiliar to the palate? Well, following her question, I thought I would share a few ‘foodie’ thoughts and cooking tips on fennel.
Fennel in Italian is “Finocchio”. It has a licorice flavor, and is a part of the celery family. It is actually a licorice-flavored celery. Like celery, it is low in calories, and contains vitamin C, potassiam, and small amounts of folate. When shopping for fennel bulbs, they should be clean and firm with feathery green fronds.
“Finnocchio” is on our Christmas Eve table as the green fronds are cut and removed from the bulb. The ‘bulb’ is then sliced on a platter with extra-virgin olive oil dusted with salt and black pepper. The sliced bulb make great dippers for the olive oil. Because fennel has a licorice flavor, it cleanses the palate. The finocchio is traditionally served in our family as the course served before the sweet course, cleansing the palate. Lupini beans, fresh fruits, and roasted chestnuts are also part of this course and our family table. That’s another chapter!! For now, I hope you enjoy experimenting with fennel – I love it raw in the summer, and roasted in the Fall.
Fennel can also be sliced and tossed with olive oil and lemon juice, with fresh-sliced oranges as a simple, nutritious, and low-fat salad.
For cooked fennel, try roasting slices of fennel with olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper in a 400-degree oven until tender and slightly brown.
Fennel also makes for a nice companion to apples, potatoes, apples and pork.