I’ve got creative ideas for cooking with fennel during spring:
1. Fennel Soup
David Tanis’ Fennel Soup with a Green Swirl from Heart of the Artichoke seems like the perfect way to welcome spring. Just shopping for the produce is uplifting, filling your basket with gorgeous bulbs of fennel, bundles of scallions, fragrant basil, and leafy parsley. It’s an overload of green, which many of us are craving this time of year. The soup calls for sliced fennel to sauté in hot olive oil with garlic and onion, then simmer in water or stock until tender, which cooks the anise flavor of this bright vegetable down to mellow loveliness. A handful of rice gives the soup body reminiscent of comforting potato soup. The green swirl is a pesto made with vibrant herbs and fennel fronds that adds a light and fresh note to the nourishing bowl. Look for the recipe this week here at la Domestique!
2. Fennel Sandwich
This may sound crazy but it’s brilliant- fennel in your sandwich! I discovered a recipe for Brie de Meaux and Roasted Fennel Sandwichin The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen, and it was a revelation. Why have I never put fennel in my sandwich? This must change now! This is one of those simple but luxurious ideas: thinly sliced fennel is tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper, then roasted in a 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 25 minutes. The warm fennel goes onto sliced baguette with soft and oozy Brie cheese and sun dried tomatoes (genius!). Drizzle with a bit of the tomato oil and top with another slice of baguette and you’ve got yourself a sandwich.
3. Pickled Fennel with Orange and Mint
The title says it all, Canning for a New Generation: Bold, Fresh Flavors for the Modern Pantry. Liana Krissoff’s book is an endless source of inspiration for me, and I love the worldly recipes for preserved foods that are definitely bold. Pickled Fennel with Orange and Mint is a refreshing fridge pickle, or you can go the whole nine yards and process the jars to last months. Fennel is sliced and allowed to marinate in a couple teaspoons salt for an hour, then rinsed and drained. Sterilized jars are filled with the fennel/orange zest, fennel seeds, and fresh mint. A mixture of white wine vinegar, honey, water, and salt is brought to a boil, then poured into the jars over the fennel and processed. Liana suggests serving this bright and fresh pickle over beef carpaccio, whole roasted fish, or in a salad. There’s also this recipe for Pickled Fennel from Martha Stewart.
4. Salmon with Braised Fennel and Artichokes
In The Young Man & the Sea, Chef David Pasternack writes, “This is one of salmon’s greatest hits. The fennel adds just the right zingy touch. I call this my spring fling because the best artichokes come out of the ground in the spring and the best salmon are caught in the spring.” He goes on to praise King salmon for its “buttery, sweet, fatty” character. For the recipe King Salmon with Braised Fennel and Artichokes, Chef sautés garlic and a dried red Thai chile in olive oil, adding sliced fennel, artichoke, lemon peel, thyme, and dry white wine to the pot to simmer until tender, about 25 minutes. Then the solids are strained from the liquid, which is reduced and then reunited with the other ingredients. Serve the braised fennel and artichokes over pan seared salmon fillets.
5. Grilled Fennel
It’s no secret I love cooking on the grill, and the minute the snow melts I can be found cooking on our patio. I love the delicate, thoughtful touch of Alice Waters in the instructions for Grilled Fennel from Chez Panisse Vegetables. While the grill heats, fennel bulbs are cut into wedges and simmered in water for about 20 minutes, until crisp-tender. The wedges are allowed to cool, then threaded onto skewers (love the presentation) and brushed with a vinaigrette of olive oil, lemon juice, fennel fronds, and “a little finely chopped anchovy, if you wish.” After a few turns on the grill, the fennel is caramelized and ready to serve alongside a beautiful roasted whole fish or maybe just as an appetizer. Love it.
6. Hand Pies
I’m obsessed with hand pies. The idea of portable pastry filled with delicious ingredients I can eat outside at a picnic without utensils is right up my alley. Sausage and fennel are best friends, the spicy meat loves to be paired with this sweet, anise-scented veg. I came acrossa recipe for Sausage and Feta Hand Pies in Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook that’s flavorful and satisfying, perfect for this time of year when we’re more active and need some sustenance (say, after a hike?). Her classic Pâte Brisée pie crust is cut into squares, enveloping a sautéed filling of sweet Italian sausage, onion, fennel, tomatoes, spicy red pepper flakes, and salty feta cheese. Fennel seeds sprinkled over the hand pies add another anise kick and their aroma fills the kitchen while the pies bake in the oven.
7. Fennel Confit
According to Chef Michael Psilakis in How to Roast a Lamb, confit vegetables, or, vegetables poached in olive oil, are an important part of the aegean pantry. Originally used to preserve food, the technique results in a flavorful vegetable and liquid that can be used in a myriad of ways. He shares a recipe for Fennel Confit in which baby fennel is trimmed and covered in a mixture of half canola oil, half extra-virgin olive oil, then gently braised in a Dutch oven with garlic, bay leaf, thyme, and fennel seeds for about an hour, till tender. Once the mixture has cooled it’s poured into sterilized jars and will keep in the fridge for three weeks. The fennel itself is delicious as part of an antipasti platter with cured meats, cheese, and olives. Or use it on a homemade pizza, in a salad, or to garnish cooked fish. The oil will be will be infused with fennel flavor, and is delicious whisked into vinaigrette, tossed with pasta, or to garnish soup.
8. Fennel Salad
In Vegetable Harvest, Patricia Wells shares two fennel salads. The first one, a very simple salad, is my favorite. Shaved Fennel and Parsley Salad with Sheep’s Milk Cheese is light and fresh and perfect for early spring. The author writes, “this is the time to take out your very best extra-virgin olive oil.” Maybe treat yourself to a new bottle? For the salad, thinly slice the fennel and drop it into acidulated water (water with the juice of 1 lemon). Cover the container and place it in the fridge for up to 4 hours, allowing the fennel to crisp without oxidizing. Drain the fennel and toss with a splash of olive oil. Toss with parsley and fennel fronds, season with good sea salt, and top the salad with shaved firm sheep’s milk cheese (the author suggests Ossau-Iraty or Parmigiano-Reggiano). The second recipe is L’Angle’s Vegetable Salad: Carrots, Fennel, Radishes, Beets, and Onions. Modeled after the eponymous Paris restaurant, this salad is a colorful medley of blanched fennel and carrot, steamed beets, with fresh radishes and spring onions, all sliced thinly. Blanching the veg sets its bright color and makes the texture a bit more tender. Creamy Lemon-Chive Dressing cloaks the salad in spring.
9. Fennel Risotto with Scallops
The recipe for Fennel Risotto with Scallops comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, The River Cottage Cookbook. It’s a delicate layering of beautiful flavors beginning with a stock made from scallop trimmings, fennel stalks and trimmings, onion, bay leaf, and white wine. To make the risotto, sliced fennel is sautéed with onion and garlic in oil until softened. Arborio rice goes into the pan, and from there the fish stock is added a little at a time, as in traditional risotto. Once the rice is smooth and creamy, but still al dente, finely chopped fennel fronds and a dash of Pernod go into the pot. Serve the risotto in shallow bowls with seared scallops.
10. Fried Fennel
I first discovered fried fennel in The Silver Spoon, the encyclopedic “bible of Italian cooking.” I’m in love with this idea. It’s perfect for those warm spring days, sitting on the patio with a glass of crisp, dry white wine (or my favorite, bubbles!). This method for frying fennel from Saveur is simpler and makes more sense than the one from The Silver Spoon, which requires the fennel be boiled for 45 minutes (something’s wrong here). Boil sliced fennel for 5-10 minutes until crisp-tender, then pat dry and dredge in flour, dipping the fennel into an eggy batter before frying in hot oil. Serve immediately with a sprinkling of salt and lemon wedges. So good!