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Ingredient

Fennel

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What is it?

The general name “fennel” applies to two varieties of the plant: Florence fennel, or finocchio, and common fennel. Florence fennel has a bulbous base, long celery-like stalks, and delicate bright green fronds. The bulb is crunchy with a pleasantly sweet aniseed, or licorice-like flavor, and can be eaten raw or cooked. The stalks and and fronds can also be used in cooking. Common fennel is the variety of the plant from which fennel seeds are harvested. Though common fennel doesn’t have a bulb, its stalks and fronds can be used like those of Florence fennel.

How to choose:

Choose clean, firm bulbs with no sign of browning. Any attached greenery should look fresh and bright green in color.

How to prep:

Florence fennel can seem unwieldy to work with at first, especially if you buy it with the stalks intact. Once you cut off the stalks (slice them close to the bulb), you’ll find you have a more manageable vegetable. Next, peel the stringy fibers off the outer layer of the bulb with a peeler or sharp paring knife. Now you can cut the bulb into wedges and braise or roast it, or cut it into slices for sautéing or tossing with pasta.

Don’t throw away the stalks and fronds. Add fennel stalks to a vegetable broth, especially if you plan to use the broth in a fennel dish—they lend quite a bit of anise flavor. The stalks also freeze well in plastic bags for later use. You can use the mildly anise-flavored fronds as you would a fresh herb in several ways:

  • In salads, especially if the salad contains fennel
  • Tucked in the cavity of roasted chicken or whole fish, alone or with other aromatics
  • Chopped and added to marinades for fish or meat, along with garlic and other herbs
  • Added to chunky vegetable soups during the last minutes of simmering
  • As a bed for roasting swordfish or halibut fillets (both fronds and stalks)

 

How to store:

You can refrigerate fennel tightly wrapped in a plastic bag for up to 5 days.

    Recipes

  • Recipe

    Pasta with Roasted Fennel and Tomatoes

    As the fennel and tomatoes roast, their juices mingle to create a luscious sauce. Finocchiona, salami flavored with fennel seeds (finocchio is Italian for fennel), reinforces the fennel flavor of…

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    Fennel Confit with Grilled Lamb

    Like caramelized onions, slowly cooked fennel becomes deep, rich, and sweet tasting. Paired with a lemony, gremolata-like herb garnish, it’s a great accompaniment to lamb chops coated in crushed fennel…

  • Recipe

    Mussels with Fennel and Fregola

    This recipe comes courtesy of my friend chef Joshua McFadden; a dish similar to this is in our cookbook. I love it so much—it’s fragrant, colorful, and satisfying—that I had…

  • Recipe

    Shaved Fennel Salad with Oranges, Black Olives, and Pistachios

    With its sweet and salty flavors, this colorful salad makes a superb first course and would also work well as a side to a rich braise. A short soak in…

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    Peperonata with Fried Eggs

    Peperonata, a mix of cooked sweet peppers, is often served as part of antipasti. Here, it’s topped with an egg and served with crusty bread to mop it all up.

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    Scandinavian-Inspired Bread Salad

    Best-of-season ripe tomatoes meld with fresh dill, fennel, toasted rye, and caraway in a Nordic-influenced salad you’ll want to serve day and (long) summer night.

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    Steamed Salmon with Fennel and Citrus

    Aromatic fennel and tart citrus highlight the sweetness of salmon while providing a counterpoint to its rich texture. If you can’t find blood oranges, add another medium orange to the…

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    Grilled Farmers’ Market Pasta

    A colorful mix of garden-fresh vegetables gets a simple treatment (a toss with garlic, basil, and cheese) after grilling to let their flavors shine.

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    Fennel and Fig Pesto

    The sweetness of fig contrasts the tingly heat of fresh ginger and the bright acidity of grapefruit. Serve as part of a cheese course or on crostini.

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    Leek, Chicken, and Rice Soup

    The mellow sweetness of leeks mingles with smoky paprika to make this chicken soup perfect for a rainy spring afternoon.

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