By Kelsey King
Photos by Kelsey King
Fennel is not only unique in its appearance, but also in its taste and versatility. Fennel’s flavors are reminiscent of celery and anise, and are not overpowering. Fennel can be used in both sweet and savory dishes, and can be incorporated as a raw or cooked ingredient. Fronds found at the end of fennel stalks, which arise from the bulb of the vegetable, are branched, feathery and a common garnish.
The growing season begins in mid-fall and extends to early spring, making the next few weeks your last chance to grab it while it’s fresh. When selecting fennel, you want the bulb to be firm, greenish-white in appearance and absent of soft or brown spots. The fronds should be vibrant green and not wilted. To store, wrap the fennel in a paper bag and place it in the fridge for three to five days.
If you have never cooked with fennel before, or are simply looking for some new recipes, check out the ideas below for some transitional dishes as we move forward into spring and summer.
Fennel and Spinach Soup
4 cups fennel bulbs, chopped, with core discarded (about 2 large)
2 tablespoons EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil)
2 cups leeks, chopped (about 2 medium)
1 cup shallots, chopped (about 2 large)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
3/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup water
1 bay leaf
4 ounces fresh spinach
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons fennel fronds, chopped (optional)
Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat.
Add fennel bulb, leek, shallot, thyme and salt; cover and cook 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add broth, water and bay leaf, bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 12 minutes.
Discard bay leaf.
Stir in spinach and black pepper, remove from heat.
Cover and let stand at room temperature for 5 minutes.
Puree fennel mixture until smooth.
Return to pan; heat over medium heat until thoroughly heated.
Garnish with fennel fronds (optional).
Fennel and Orange Salad with Red Onion
2 oranges, blood or navel
1 large fennel bulb, cored, very thinly sliced
½ cup red onion, very thinly sliced
3 tablespoons Marzetti® Light Raspberry Cabernet Vinaigrette
Fresh mint leaves (optional)
Peel oranges. cut between membranes to release segments.
Toss oranges, fennel, red onion and vinaigrette in a large bowl to coat.
Garnish with mint (optional).
Shrimp and Fennel Kebabs with Salsa Verde
1/3 cup chopped parsley
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
1 ½ tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 tablespoons EVOO
1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon water
1 ½ teaspoon capers, chopped
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Whisk to combine.
4 teaspoons EVOO, divided
28 large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 large fennel bulb, cut into 12 wedges
1 large red onion, cut into 12 wedges
3/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pre-heat grill to medium-high heat.
Toss shrimp with 2 teaspoon oil; thread evenly onto 4 (12-inch) skewers.
Thread 3 fennel wedges and 3 onion wedges alternately on each of 4 (12-inch) skewers; brush with remaining 2 teaspoon oil.
Sprinkle shrimp and vegetables with salt and pepper.
Grill shrimp 1 ½ minutes per side, or until done.
Grill vegetables 12 minutes, or until tender, turning occasionally.
Serve with salsa verde.