Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Three Cheers for Fennel!

We've just discovered fennel.  I'd heard of it, perhaps even bought fennel seeds, but I don't remember ever cooking with it before.  The other day as I was looking through my recipes, two jumped out at me, a bean and fennel soup and Fennel Slaw.  So I stopped by Haggen's produce section and found a fennel bulb.

It's a goofy looking vegetable; it looks like celery stalks topped with green feathery leaves growing out of an onion.  It has the aroma of licorice and has overtones of licorice taste as well, especially when eaten raw.  The Reader's Digest book, Foods that Harm Foods that Heal, says that "the licorice flavor goes especially well with fish; try baking or grilling it on a bed of fennel stalks.  All parts of the fennel plant are edible, and it can be prepared and served in many ways; raw in salads or braised, steamed, baked or sautéed as a side dish.  Stuffed and baked fennel bulbs are a flavorful vegetarian entree; the chopped leaves make a colorful and nutritious garnish for tomato soup and other vegetable dishes."

We started with the fennel slaw, a recipe I found in the Skagit Valley Food Co-op's June/July 2000 Natural Enquirer.  Jayne Alynn discovered it in a restaurant in Oregon and thought it sure beat the "soggy cabbage and carrots in a soupy pool of mayonnaise" that we often think of as slaw.  I'd have to agree with her (with my mom's cabbage/carrot slaw being the exception!).  Here's the recipe, as it appeared in the Natural Enquirer.

Fennel Slaw
About 4 servings
One good-sized fennel bulb and about the same amount of cabbage -- both quartered, cored, and very thinly sliced into roughly the same-sized pieces.  Reserve the dill-like
tops for later.  Toss with the dressing.

Whisk together one-quarter cup white vinegar (white balsamic, white wine, or white sherry vinegar) and about a teaspoon of honey (you can also use sugar) until dissolved, then whisk in an equal amount of olive oil.  Mix until the oil is blended in.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

She suggests you cut the fennel and the cabbage with a sharp chef's knife rather than using a food processor.  And she also recommends that you prepare the salad and refrigerate several hours (or overnight) before serving.  Be sure to pour any water that has settled in the bowl before you serve.  You might also snip the leaves into the bowl and toss, just before serving, for an extra flavor burst.

We served it for dinner last night and everyone found it delicious!

Fennel is an excellent source of vitamins A and C (especially the leaves) and potassium, calcium and iron.  It's high in fiber and low in calories.  It is said to be good for stomach ailments, coughs, colic in babies, and aids in lowering blood pressure.

No comments: