With its culinary versatility, punchy flavor and high vitamin C content, there are so many reasons to love fresh fennel and use it in your cooking.
Fennel imparts a hint of anise or licorice, but don’t let that scare you. Even if you shy from this flavor, you won’t find fennel overpowering. It’s more botanical than a black jellybean. Moreover, it pairs well with all sorts of other flavors, including tomatoes, seafood, pork, chicken, vegetables and fruit.
Slice the bulb just as you would celery, and use it raw or cooked. Fennel fronds have a more concentrated flavor, so deploy them sparingly, similar to the way you would use strong fresh herbs, like dill.
Fennel grows in milder months in Louisiana, but you can find it year round in supermarkets and grocery stores.
Here’s how to use it:
Shrimp and fennel salad
Combine cooked Gulf shrimp, chopped tri-color bell peppers and sliced fennel. Prepare a dressing of mayonnaise, salt, pepper, white wine vinegar and plenty of fresh lemon juice. Pour over the ingredients, and toss. Garnish with fresh tomatoes.
Roasted fennel and vegetables
Cut fennel bulbs into large pieces and roast with a few of your favorite vegetables. Sweet potatoes, onions, beets, turnips, peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and other veggies all work well.
Tomato fennel soup
Fennel’s anise notes are a great match for tomatoes. Sauté chopped fennel with celery, onion and garlic and puree with fresh or canned tomatoes to bring a refreshing lift to everyone’s favorite soup.
Pot roast of beef with fennel
Toss in hunks of fresh fennel alongside your usual celery, carrots and onions, and whatever else you like to add to your pot roast. The fennel will bring a floral note to this otherwise hardy and belly-warming dish.
Chicken and fennel sheet pan dinner
Marinate chicken thighs in your favorite marinade. Place on a sheet plan, along with sliced fennel and chunks of sweet potato. Roast until done. Garnish with chopped fennel fronds and serve for an easy weeknight meal.
Maggie Heyn Richardson is a regular 225 contributor. Reach her at hungryforlouisiana.com.