“What do you do with that?”
This is a common question I get from fellow farmer’s market shoppers that I encounter as I pick out the perfect fennel bulb. The fennel bulb is perceived as an intimidating vegetable (I think the fronds on the top throw people off), and I don’t see much PR trying to dispell this myth which makes me believe there is a coup on the behalf of chefs and cooks so that you can be “wowed” by something that you could just as easily enjoy at home.
So to answer the question, I do tons of different things with this not-so-mysterious vegetable. When eaten raw, fennel has a crunchy texture, similar to celery. It has a slightly sweet anise flavor, and when roasted it softens in texture and flavor.
Fennel is a low calorie food (1 cup has 27 calories), and contains many nutrients, making it a vegetable worthy of any meal. Fennel has been used since ancient times and is found in a lot of Mediterranean cooking. It has high levels of potassium, which helps reduce blood pressure and heart rate by countering the effects of sodium. Fennel also contains small amounts of minerals such as copper, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, and selenium.
Here are my top 5 favorite easy and healthy ways to eat fennel:
1. Cut into sticks and dipped in roasted eggplant dip (or any other of your favorite dips; just be sure that it isn’t loaded with fats and chemicals).
2. Roasted with spices and sprinkled with parmesan. (Slice 1/4 in thick, place on oiled baking sheet, sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, basil, roast in 425 degree oven for 30 minutes, sprinkle with parmesan cheese while still warm).
3. Thinly sliced, raw and tossed into a salad. (Try making a Mediterranean salad with romaine, spinach, diced tomatoes, cucumber, roasted peppers, Kalamata olives, haricot verts, feta, marinated artichoke hearts, lemon chicken, fresh torn basil, pepper, oregano, dried rosemary and drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.)
4. Black Barley, Fennel, Radish Salad from Bon Appetit Magazine. I wish I had developed this recipe. It is so amazing with the various textures, surprising flavors, and big nutrition. (If you can’t find black barley, use hulled barley, wheat berries, kamut, or your favorite whole grain.)
5. Caramelize with onions. Watch my video by clicking here to see how to chop and caramelize onions. Do the same with the fennel and toss in the same pot with the onions. (You can use the mixture to jazz up eggs, sandwiches, pizza, and salads. Or put in a whole wheat pita with melted mozzarella cheese).
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