We got fennel this week in our CSA share – as well as lots of questions on what to do with it.  Fennel is daunting to many cooks; that frondy top, the strange bulby bit, the slightly sweet licorice taste.  In all things culinary, be brave.  Be adventurous.  Here are a couple of ideas/recipes to get you started.

Marinated Vegetable Salad

This one doesn’t have any exact amounts or an exact recipe as so much depends on taste and what you have on hand.  Use a combination of the following vegetables:  fennel, jicama, carrots, white onion, bell peppers, cauliflower, celery, radishes, hakurei turnips, beets, chick peas, white beans to make 4 cups chopped.  Chop everything into large bite-sized chunks, prepping the veggies as follows.  Fennel: trim, chop the bulb.  Jicama:  peel and chop.  Carrots:  scrub or peel and chop.  Onion:  peel, trim, chop.  Bell peppers:  seed and chop.  Cauliflower:  chop, including the stems.  Celery:  trim and chop.  Radishes:  trim and chop.  Turnips:  trim and chop.  Beets:  trim, peel, and chop (and don’t use the red ones unless you want your whole salad to be pink.)  Chick peas and white beans:  use canned of cook first.  Put all your chopped vegetables in a mixing bowl together with 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, a splash of either wine or cider vinegar, salt and pepper to taste (don’t skimp on the salt), a sprinkle of crushed red chile flakes, and herbs as you like (fresh or dried oregano, basil, chopped fennel fronds.)  Marinate in the fridge at least 2 hours, overnight is fine.  Before serving bring to room temperature, stir and taste then adjust salt and pepper as needed. 

Filet of Sole Stuffed with Fennel and Lemon

  • 4-8 sole filets, depending on size (1-2 per person)
  • 1 small head of fennel
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (either make your own or buy unseasoned ones)
  • 2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Finely chop the fennel bulb and a tablespoon or two of the fronds, put into a mixing bowl.  Save whole a pretty frond for each piece of fish, set them aside.  Zest the lemons and add zest to fennel.  Mince or crush the garlic clove into the bowl then add the breadcrumbs.  Add 1 Tbs of the oil and toss all the ingredients together.  Season with salt and pepper to taste then squeeze juice of 1/2 lemon into the mix, toss to mix thoroughly.  Rinse and pat dry the filets.  Spread them flat then put a small heap of filling at one end of each.  Roll them up and place, seam side down, in a lightly oiled baking dish.  Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the tops then decorate each roll with a lacy frond of fennel.  Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes or until fish is cooked through.  Serve with wedges or slices of the zested lemon.  Keep in mind that sole is very delicate and needs to be handled carefully.  It has a very mild flavor and a light texture so this fish is good for fish lovers and those who aren’t sure of their affection for it. 

Braised Fennel With Gruyère or Almond Crust

  • 4 small or 2 large heads of fennel
  • 2 white or yellow onions
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
  • 2 cups milk (soy, cow, rice)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher or coarse salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper (white is best but black is ok)
  • 1 cup grated Gruyère or 1 cup ground almonds (grind raw almonds in food processor, blender, or coffee grinder)

Cut the frondy tops off the fennel bulbs then trim the bulbs.  Cut them into slices.  Peel and slice the onions then toss with the fennel.  Meanwhile put the milk, garlic, salt, and pepper into a small saucepan and heat (do not boil!)  Put the fennel and onions in a baking dish, pour the hot milk mixture over it.  Make sure the fennel and onions are under the milk as much as possible.  Bake, covered, for 45 minutes in 350 degree oven.  Remove the cover, top the mixture with the cheese or almonds.  Return to oven and bake another 10 minutes until the cheese is melted and lightly browned or the almonds are lightly browned.  Serve warm.

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