I was fortunate to find a treatise about Fennel on the Internet and I have included the best parts below. There is a lot of useful general information and more recipes than you might imagine. Enjoy these as you will. Janet and I will be experimenting, for we planted a few bulbs of Fennel this year. If it is as good as described we will make it a regular guest in our herb garden.
Store fresh fennel in a plastic bag in a refrigerator. If space is a problem, remove the long fronds and store just the fennel bulb.
Popular as a vegetable in Italy, it can be thinly sliced and eaten plain or as part of a vegetable platter. It is often served with just salt and olive oil as a simple appetizer or salad course. It can be chopped up into salad as celery, and indeed used almost anywhere celery is used. I once saw it added to chili - it was delicious. It was a popular herb in the ancient world of the Greeks and Romans. A recipe from Columella, a Spaniard who served in the Roman army in Syria in AD 60: "Mix fennel with toasted sesame, anise, and cumin then mix that with pureed dried fig and wrap in fig leaves and then store in jars to preserve." (From Spencers®: The Vegetable Book©)
The History of Fennel: (from Mediterranean Vegetables© by Clifford Wright)
The earliest inscriptions that refer to fennel are Coptic, describing its use for treating eye ailments. In Greek mythology knowledge came to man from Olympus in the form of a fiery coal contained in a fennel stalk. The Greeks grew fennel, as did the Romans, and the bulb variety was probably developed in Italy.... During the Italian Middle Ages agrarian cults of benandanti, or good witches, claimed that they fought nocturnal battles with evil witches, who were armed with stalks of sorghum, while benandanti were armed with bundles of fennel.
More Fennel History:
It is mentioned in Gerard (1597), and Parkinson (Theatricum Botanicum, 1640) tells us that its culinary use was derived from Italy, for he says:
'The leaves, seede and rootes are both for meate and medicine; the Italians especially doe much delight in the use thereof, and therefore transplant and whiten it, to make it more tender to please the taste, which being sweete and somewhat hot helpeth to digest the crude qualitie of fish and other viscous meats. We use it to lay upon fish or to boyle it therewith and with divers other things, as also the seeds in bread and other things.'
Fennel Nutritional Value:
Fennel is high is vitamins A and E, calcium and potassium. Fennel and ginger make a good digestive tea. (Steep the fresh leaves with a bit of sliced ginger for 5 minutes in boiling water.)
Usage ideas from The Victory Garden Cookbook©:
- Sprinkle chopped fennel leaves on hot baked oysters or clams.
- Add cooked fennel to omelets, quiches, stuffing or sauces.
- Add stalks to stocks for their flavor.
- Add sliced sautéed fennel to fish chowders.
- Cook fennel in your favorite tomato sauce.
- Place stalks and leaves on barbecue coals as they do in France. The fennel scent permeates the grilled food.
- Slice steamed or blanched fennel, cover with a vinaigrette and serve chilled.
- Chop raw fennel and add to tuna fish sandwiches.
- Slice fennel thin and layer with raw potatoes, cream and cheese to make a potatoes au gratin.
Preparing Fennel: (The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition© by Shelden Margen, M.D.)
Baking: First, braise the fennel for about 5 minutes. Transfer to a baking dish and add just 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Cover tightly and bake at 350ºF until just tender and beginning to brown. If desired, uncover toward the end to allow any excess liquid to evaporate, then sprinkle with breadcrumbs and grated Parmesan cheese, and brown under the broiler before serving. Cooking time: about 1 hour.
Braising: Braise fennel in broth, tomato sauce, vermouth or sherry (diluted 1-to-1 with water); add lemon zest, garlic, or onion for extra flavor. Braised fennel is delicious hot, warm, or chilled. Place fennel slices, or halved or quartered small fennel bulbs, in a sauce pan and add just enough boiling liquid to barely cover the vegetable. Simmer uncovered, turning occasionally, until the fennel is tender, adding more liquid if necessary. Cooking time: 25 to 40 minutes.
Sautéing: Cut fennel into slivers and heat in a small amount of stock, tossing and stirring it frequently. For extra flavor, cook chopped onion and garlic along with fennel. A sprinkling of lemon juice and zest makes a nice finishing touch. Cooking time: 10 to 15 minutes.
Steaming: Fennel steamed until crisp-tender can be covered with your favorite sauce or marinated in a vinaigrette, chilled, and served as a salad. To steam it, place whole or halved bulbs in a vegetable steamer and cook over boiling water until just tender. Cooking time: 20 to 30 minutes.
Shaved Fennel and Pistachio Salad
Makes: 4 to 6 servings
3 medium heads fennel, very thinly sliced crosswise about 7 cups
1/2 cup roasted & salted pistachios, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely chopped or grated lemon zest
Combine all ingredients in a large glass or ceramic bowl and toss until the fennel is coated. Season well with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate up to 1 day.
Fennel and Cheese for Dessert (adapted from The Victory Garden Cookbook© )
- Fennel bulbs
- One great tasting cheese, such as blue cheese or a local goat cheese
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Wash and trim the fennel bulbs. If they are small cut them in half. Quarter larger bulbs. Serve the pieces with slices of cheese and pass the oil, salt, and pepper.
1 Bulb fennel
1 bunch radish
A few carrots
Dill 1-2 tsp if fresh
Thinly slice fennel, carrots and radish. Seed and chop cucumber. Mix everything into a bowl and toss with some rice vinegar and some dill to taste. This salad gets better as the days go by and it marinates in the vinegar, but it is really tasty the day of as well.
Oven Potatoes with Fennel
- 20 ounces Yukon Gold potatoes, cut in 1/2" cubes
- 1 medium fennel bulb, trimmed and cut in 1" slices
- 1 medium sweet onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced finely
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground black pepper -- to taste
Preheat your oven to 400ºF. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. In large bowl, combine the potatoes, fennel, onion, parsley, oil, salt and pepper; toss gently until well coated. Arrange the mixture in a single layer on a prepared baking sheet. Bake, turning occasionally, until the potatoes are crisp on all sides, about 30 to 35 minutes. Serve immediately.
Pickled Fennel with Orange (from The Joy of Pickling© by Linda Ziedrich)
Use this on a sandwich, on a cheese board/.cracker platter, or tossed in a green salad.
- 2 fennel bulbs, sliced thin
- 1 teaspoon pickling salt (kosher or other uniodized salt)
- zest from ½ an orange, in strips
- 1 or 2 small fennel fronds (optional)
- 6 T white wine vinegar
- 6 T orange juice
- 1 T sugar
- 4 black peppercorns, cracked
In a bowl, toss the fennel slices with the salt. Let them stand 1 hour. Drain the fennel slices, and toss them with the orange zest. Pack them into a pint jar, placing a fennel frond or two against the side of the jar, if you like. In a saucepan, heat the vinegar, orange juice, sugar, and peppercorns to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the hot liquid over the fennel. Cap the jar, and let it cool to room temperature. Store the pickles in the refrigerator. They will be ready to eat in a day or two, and will keep for at least several weeks.
Liz’s Fennel Recipe
2 small red onions
2 Fennel bulbs
2 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
2 to 3 tbsp. Parmesan cheese
Pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Put the olive oil in the bottom of a roasting pan. Coat the onions and fennel with the olive oil by rolling them in the pan. Pepper lightly. Cover with foil and seal tightly. Roast for 35 minutes until tender when pierced with a fork. Uncover, sprinkle with balsamic vinegar and coat with parmesan. Cook uncovered at 375 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes (until the Parmesan cheese melts and becomes lightly browned.)
Fennel, Grape and Gorgonzola Salad
1 large Fennel bulb
2 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
½ cup black grapes, halved and seeded if necessary
2 oz. Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
1 cup Radicchio thinly sliced
1 cup Romaine thinly sliced
Trim the fennel stalks flush with the bulb and discard any tough outer layers. Halve the bulb lengthwise, discard the core, and slice the fennel thinly. In a bowl toss together the fennel, oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste and let the mixture stand for ten minutes. Add the grapes, Gorgonzola cheese, radicchio and romaine. Toss to combine and serve.
Fresh Fennel Confit
1 Fennel bulb
2 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. butter
½ tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. Pernod liquor
Trim the fennel bulb, and cut it into long julienne strips. Combine the oil and butter in a heavy saucepan over very low heat. Add the fennel and pepper, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes. Remove the cover, add the Pernod, and stir. Cook an additional 5 minutes.
Note from Julia: I made this confit without the Pernod and added some sliced onion with the fennel. It was great topped on a pizza, or can be served as a side dish.
Fennel Baked with Parmesan Cheese
This recipe is from Jane Grigson's Vegetable Book©. Jane Grigson's note about this recipe: "My favorite fennel dish, the best one of all by far. The simple additions of butter and parmesan - no other cheese will do - show off the fennel flavor perfectly. The point to watch, when the dish is in the oven, is the browning of the cheese. Do not let it go beyond a rich golden-brown."
This dish can be halved or made even smaller for just two people with one or two large heads of fennel.
6 Fennel bulbs, trimmed and quartered
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Cook the fennel in salted water until it is just tender. It is important to get this right: the fennel should not still be crisp, on the other hand it should not be floppy either. Drain it well and arrange in a generously buttered gratin dish. Be generous, too, with the pepper mill. Sprinkle on the cheese. Put the dish into the oven at 400ºF, until the cheese is golden brown and the fennel is bubbling vigorously in buttery juices.
Fennel Vinaigrette Dressing
½ cup Extra virgin olive oil
½ cup green Fennel leaves
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
In a small saucepan, heat oil, fennel leaves, lemon juice, crushed garlic and salt and sugar. Simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.
Creamy Fennel Soup
2 cups chicken, beef or vegetable stock
1 Fennel bulb, about one pound
1 sliver of garlic
2 tbsp. chopped onion
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice (or more to taste)
1 tsp. lemon zest
½ tsp. dried dill weed or 1 ½ tsp. fresh dill weed
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 quart nonfat yogurt
Clean and slice the fennel bulb, reserving any greens for garnish. Cook the fennel in the stock with the garlic and shallots until soft. Puree in a blender with the lemon juice and zest, and the spices. Strain the puree if you wish a smoother texture. Combine well with the yogurt and chill. Serve garnished with chopped fennel greens or chopped cilantro.
Parmesan Topped Fennel Puree
1 ½ lb. potatoes, peeled and quartered
2 Fennel bulbs, trimmed and chopped
2 cups chicken broth
½ cup milk
2 tbsp. butter
Salt to taste
White pepper to taste
2 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. flavored bread crumbs
Boil the potatoes until tender; about 30 minutes. Drain well. Transfer to a mixing bowl and mash well. Meanwhile, in another saucepan, combine fennel with the broth and cook over medium heat until tender; about 15 minutes. Drain and puree in food processor. Add to potatoes along with the milk and butter. Then transfer to an oven-proof casserole; top with Parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Brown under broiler for a few minutes.
Arugula, Fennel and Orange Salad
¼ cup Shallots, minced
3 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tbsp. Fresh lemon juice
2 large Oranges
7 cups Arugula (about 10 large bunches), trimmed
1 large Fennel bulb, quartered lengthwise, cored and sliced thinly crosswise
1 small Red onion, sliced thinly
Whisk minced shallots, olive oil and lemon juice in medium bowl to blend. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Cut all the peel and white pith from the oranges. Using small sharp knife, cut between membranes to release segments. Combine arugula, fennel and onion in large bowl. Toss with enough dressing to coat. Add orange segments; toss to combine. Season salad to taste with salt and pepper and serve. Serves 6.
Greek Style Fennel
3 Fennel bulbs
2 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 large Tomatoes, diced
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
2 tsp. Freshly chopped herb (Chervil, Marjoram …)
½ cup Feta cheese
Reserved fennel tops
Cut off the stalks and feathery leaves of the fennel. Chop and reserve some of the leaves for garnish. Cut fennel bulbs vertically into 8 sections. In a skillet, heat olive oil, add garlic and fennel, and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, add salt, pepper and the fresh herb(s) and cook over low heat until most of the liquid is reduced. Serve sprinkled with the garnish of feta cheese and reserved fennel tops.
Fennel, Orange and Caper Salad
2 Fennel bulbs
1 tbsp. Capers, drained
1 tbsp. fresh Dill or Chervil, chopped
¼ Orange, seeded
2 tsp. Red wine vinegar
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
4 tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
Trim the stalks from the fennel, cut the bulb in half lengthwise; then cut crosswise into very thin slices. Place in a large bowl with the capers and the dill.. Make the dressing. Cut the quarter orange into small pieces and place them in the work bowl of a food processor with the vinegar, mustard, sugar and salt. .Process until smooth. With the motor running slowly, pour in the olive oil. Pour over the fennel, toss well and serve.
Fennel, Mushroom and Parmesan Cheese Salad
3/8 cup Extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp. Fresh lemon juice
Salt and freshly ground White Pepper to taste
Pinch of ground Nutmeg
1 tbsp. firmly packed fennel leaves, finely diced
You can prepare the dressing an hour or two in advance, but the salad ingredients won't keep pristine for more than half an hour.
4 Small Fennel bulbs, sliced paper thin
1 oz. Parmesan cheese, shaved paper thin
4 large mushrooms, sliced paper thin
White pepper to taste
Use a fork to blend the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Taste for seasoning. Cover and keep in a cool place. Combine the fennel and cheese in a mixing bowl. Beat the dressing to blend it and add 1/4 cup to the bowl. Blend carefuly with your hands - the cheese tends to sink to the bottom, and you don't want to end up with just crumbles. Spread a handful of this mixture on 4 salad plates, filling the plates. Heap the mushroom slices lightly over the fennel, leaving a curly border of the fennel. Beat the dressing again and spoon 1 Tbsp. over the mushrooms on each plate. Grind pepper over the salads and serve at once as a separate course with bread sticks.
Italian Fennel Salad
Thinly slice 1 medium-size fennel bulb and 1 unpeeled orange. Arrange - alternating and overlapping or however you like - on two salad plates. Strew with half a dozen salt-cured or Kalamata olives, sprinkle each plate with 1/2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, a few drops of fresh lemon juice, a tsp. of finely chopped fennel leaves, salt and freshly ground white pepper. Serve at once or let the ingredients mingle an hour or so. Serves 2.
Fennel Stuffed with Cream Cheese and Kalamata Olives
1 large Fennel bulb (about 1 pound)
3 ounce package Cream Cheese, softened
1/3 cup drained Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
Trim fennel stalks flush with bulb, reserving fronds, and cut outer 2 layers loose at base, removing them carefully and reserving rest of bulb for another use. Chop reserved fronds. In a small bowl cream together cream cheese, olives, and chopped fronds. Spread inside of larger fennel layer with cream cheese mixture and press back of other layer onto filling firmly. Chill fennel, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, at least 1 hour or up to overnight. Unwrap fennel and cut crosswise into 1/3 inch thick slices. Cut slices crosswise into 1½ inch wide sections.