Back to the Kitchen: The Magic of Fennel

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gwen-upper110x110BY GWEN KENNEALLY

fennel-bulbI found the most amazing fennel this weekend at the open-air market. With its umbels of tiny yellow flowers and dark green or bronze wispy leaves and subtle hint of licorice flavor, fennel is one of my most favorite vegetables. Sometimes called anise I love to add fennel to salads. Sautéed with garlic or braised it is a simple side dish. It’s also delicious in tomato soup for a toasty and cozy winter supper. There are so many winter and spring fruits and vegetables that really complement this unique flavor. A tea made with a few fresh sprigs of fennel or a level teaspoon of seeds will relieve indigestion and also helps to stimulate the flow of breast milk and sooth colicky babies. So keep your eyes peeled for fennel and add it to some of your favorite recipes.

Recipes serve 4-6 people.

Roasted Fennel

2 fennel bulbs (thick base of stalk), stalks cut off, bulbs sliced

Olive oil

Balsamic vinegar

Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400°F.Rub just enough olive oil over the fennel to coat. Sprinkle on some balsamic vinegar, also to coat. Line baking dish with aluminum foil. Lay out pieces of fennel, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast for 15-20 minutes, until the fennel is cooked through and beginning to caramelize.

Chicken and Fennel Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 Fennel bulbs, coarsely chopped (4 cups), fronds and shoots reserved for garnish

1/2-teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Pinch of red pepper flakes (to taste)

3 cloves garlic

1 small shallot, chopped

9 cups chicken stock

2 chicken legs (thigh and drumstick), skin removed

1 (10-ounce) bag of fresh spinach

2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

Juice of two lemons

In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat until it shimmers. Add fennel; cook 10 minutes, just until it begins to brown, stirring occasionally. Add salt, pepper, garlic, red pepper flakes and shallot; cook 5 minutes, until shallot is softened and fennel is lightly browned, stirring occasionally. Add chicken stock and chicken legs; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through, 20 minutes. Remove from heat, and transfer chicken to a colander. Run chicken under cold water just until cool enough to handle. Remove chicken meat from bones (discard bones), shred meat and add to soup. Stir in spinach and lemon zest. Spoon into serving bowls, and garnish with reserved fennel fronds and shoots.

Cucumber, Fennel, And Orange Salad

10 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced

1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced

1 small red onion, halved and thinly sliced

2 large oranges zest and pith removed, halved and thinly sliced

2 bunches watercress

4 tablespoons pomegranate vinegar

2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

1-tablespoon honey

1/2-cup olive oil

1-cup pomegranate seeds

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

Combine cucumbers, fennel, onion, oranges and watercress in large shallow bowl. Whisk together vinegar, orange juice, honey and olive oil. Toss with salad. Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and pine nuts.

Chilean Sea Bass with Fennel, Asparagus and Artichoke

6 artichoke hearts

1 lemon, juiced

32 asparagus spears

2 whole fresh fennel bulbs

1 shallot, finely diced

4 tablespoons olive oil

6 tablespoons sherry vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 Chilian sea bass fillets

Clean and trim fennel. Cut out center part, and then cook in boiling water for about 40 minutes, or until tender. Trim outer leaves of artichokes all the way to the heart. Cook artichoke hearts in simmering water with lemon juice for approximately 20 minutes and then cut into small sections. Peel and cook asparagus for 3 minutes in simmering water. Cut each spear into 3 pieces, on the bias. In a small bowl, mix the shallot, olive oil, sherry vinegar, and salt and pepper, to taste. Set dressing aside. Preheat a grill or grill pan to medium-high. Season sea bass with salt and pepper, and grill on both sides until cooked through. On 4 dinner plates, arrange artichokes, asparagus, and fennel Drizzle with dressing. Place sea bass in the center on top and drizzle with remaining dressing.

Scallops with Pear and Fennel Salad

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil

2 pears, very ripe, halved, peeled and seeded

3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

1/4 cup white wine vinegar

1/4 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 medium fennel bulbs, thinly sliced

3 pears, thinly sliced

1 medium-size head of radicchio, quartered, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)

4 green onions, thinly sliced (about 3/4 cup)

24 large sea scallops

2 tablespoons butter, divided

Puree oil, 2 pears, and tarragon in processor. Add vinegar, orange juice and mustard; process until just combined. Season vinaigrette with salt and pepper. Combine fennel, radicchio, pears and green onions in large bowl. Add 3/4-cup vinaigrette; toss to coat. Sprinkle scallops with salt and pepper. Melt 1-tablespoon butter in heavy large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add 12 scallops and sauté until golden on both sides and just opaque in center, about 3 minutes total. Transfer sautéed scallops to large plate and cover with foil. Repeat with remaining butter and scallops. Divide salad among 4 plates. Place 6 scallops on top of each. Drizzle scallops with remaining vinaigrette and serve.

Braised Chicken with Saffron, Olives and Fennel

1 large roasting chicken

1-tablespoon olive oil

1 red onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 large fennel bulb, trim flush with bulb, halved lengthwise and thinly slice crosswise

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

Juice of 2 lemons

1 cup kalamata olives. pitted and broken

1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron

2 tablespoons Wondra Flour

In a large skillet heat the olive oil. Sautee onions and garlic until golden about 3 minutes. Add the fennel and cook until soften about 5 minutes. Place chicken, stock, olives lemon, saffron and fennel mixture in a large roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper. Roast in a preheated 350 oven for 25 minutes per pound and the juices run clear. Baste several times. A meat thermometer should read 185. Remove from oven and let rest. Transfer 1/4 cup of cooking liquid to small saucepan and whisk with flour until smooth. Add the remaining liquid and simmer, stirring until the sauce has thickened. Place the fennel mixture n a platter. Place the chicken on top and serve passing the sauce.

Gwen Kenneally is the owner of Back to the Kitchen, Full Service Catering and Party Planning. She is the co-founder and master baker at Magpie Gourmet Mini Pies.  Check out her websites and  Her Sweet and Savory Cookbook is available through AMAZON 


About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.