Fennel is one of those things that makes me feel okay about letting go of the sweet, colorful, plentiful produce of summer. Like apple cider and pears, fennel is there for me when I get bummed about the fact that my peaches have been foamy feeling and the blueberries are starting to have a moldy kind of taste to them (yeah, I know, it was time to stop buying peaches and blueberries like a month ago). Fennel is a hardy, crunchy, flavorful veggie that holds up to the heavier dishes of chillier days. Its flavor is totally unique - as if it's part celery, part licorice, part dill. Raw it is light and refreshing, roasted it is hardier and deeply caramelly.
It's one of those foods that goes against that whole color wheel thing, too...even though it's white, it's full of health benefits from promoting digestive health to alleviating respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis to facilitating women's health, like promoting the flow of breast milk and easing the labor process (excuse me while I chew on some fennel right now...). But most importantly, it's super yummy. And because of its unique and satisfying flavor, you don't have to do much to it to add a delicious taste and texture to your meal - try it shaved in a salad or simply roasted.
SHOPPING & STORING: Look for bulbs that are heavy for their size and tightly packed, without many marks or bruises, although you can remove the tough outer layer before using. Those pretty, feathery stalks should be firm, not wilted. Store it in the crisper drawer of your fridge for a week or two (if you want to use the fronds, wrap them in a damp paper towel as you would an herb). Here's a nice little video from Martha Stewart showing you how to get into one.
And here are some fennel recipes from around the web that I'd love to try!:
I think I'll try that baked fennel recipe tonight alongside a pork tenderloin. Are there any recipes you'd recommend??
(fennel photos, jamie grill photography; recipe photos from links provided)