It has been a good summer for fennel. Two coworkers have mentioned that their tiny plots are being overrun by the herb. The wonderful writer Amy of the Great Whatever commented ages ago now, whatever will she do with all her fennel. And, while colds, travels and politics have slowed me in my answer, here it is plain and simple. Eat it!
Fennel, I have come to learn, is a perennial (i.e. if treated properly, you could be overrun next year too.) Likely native to Mediterranean, its easy temperment helped it become a common herb in the Europe and in the Indian subcontinent in part thanks to those industrious Romans who took it with them on their conquests. (Take this little tale with a grain of salt or a fennel seed, because my source is Wikipedia.) I can imagine that it would have been very attractive to each subsequent culture as its fronds, bulb and seeds are all edible and delicious.
It is at this point in the story if you are a black licorice hater, you might stop reading. But, please don't. I am not a fan of licorice, really, really not a fan. But, I have really come to like fennel. This is in part because I only sparingly use the seeds, the most strongly anise-flavored element of the plant. The fronds and bulb have a pleasant but very subtle kick.
So, what can you do with fennel? Well, I have much more fennel eating to come, but here is the beginning. I will be posting recipes soon...but here is the rundown.
Elderberry and Fennel Frond Pies: toss fennel fronds with elderberries, brown sugar, cornstarch and agave nectar. The fennel taste is subtle.
Candied Fennel Fronds: Inspired by the French art of candying the herb angelica, I will make an attempt at this. I am dubious, but I will get back to you.
Fennel, Peach and Blue Cheese Pizza
Fennel, Blue Cheese, and Red Currant Salad: Shave fennel root, add fruit, and blue cheese. Dress with rice wine vinegar and grapeseed oil. Don't add so much vinegar that this puckers your cheeks, but just enough to give it a kick.
Amaranth Leaves Daal with Fennel Seeds: Got to get back to you on this...
Savory Fennel, Ricotta and Feta Handpies: Toss fennel fronds and stems with ricotta, olive oil, red pepper flakes, and plenty of feta cheese. Place the mixture into dough rounds, seal, and bake.
Oven-roasted Fennel with Roast Chicken: Toss quartered roots with olive oil and salt, line then up in a baking pan, and top with bone in Chicken breast and roast at 375 for a good long while. (Tent with foil if everything is getting too brown.)
Chicken, Chickpea and Fennel seed soup: Sweat diced onions, add fennel seeds and a bay leaf, chickpeas, diced potato, and water or chicken stock. Once vegetables are cooked, add cleaned chicken meat (if desired) and thinly shaved fennel root.
Grilled Fennel Sandwich: Slice root into 1/2 inch thick portions. Grill. Top with heirloom tomato and goat cheese. (This also makes a good pizza.)
Check back to me for other fennel recipes.
Since this seems very herby, I thought it fell in the new rules of Weekend Herb Blogging (hopefully.) This week it is run by Cooking 4 all Seasons, who always does a great round-up, and it was, of course, started by Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen.