It is a rare day when a bite or two of fennel, or a whole bulb, does not get consumed by me. As a person who works from home and is perpetually both hungry and surrounded by food, fennel is an excellent choice. It’s easy and satisfying with its refreshing flavor (it really doesn’t taste like black licorice) and filled with vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients including anethole. Every part of the bulb is usable. Don’t think of this herbaceous plant as something exotic. In roasting, use it as you would an onion, and for raw munching, swap out your celery for fennel slices.
Fennel is widely cultivated (it’s in the carrot and parsley family) and readily accessible. Almost every grocery store with a good produce section will have some, just look for it! Trader Joe’s sells a two-pack of domestic conventional (meaning, non-organic) fennel bulbs for $2.29. Fennel is absent from the “Dirty Dozen.” list of the twelve conventionally grown fruits and vegetables that have tested positive for 47 or more chemicals and thus should be avoided unless eaten organically. So at $1.15 for a big bulb, it’s a pretty darn good value. Of course, if you can buy it organically, it would be free from pesticide residue altogether.
ROASTING and SNACKING
After giving a rinse and a good wipe down, cut the bulb in half and slice rings starting at the bottom. I remove the hard core at the middle from the lower halved-rounds and continue slicing up the bulb. I often cut some of the stems into little rounds, saving what fronds have not been trimmed for soup stock, salads, or for garnish. Do not throw this part away!
I like to combine fennel with sliced red onion and sweet pepper for a beautiful trio. Cut up the vegetables and then toss in a bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil and roast on parchment paper as you would sheet pan vegetables. Make sure to add salt to bring out the flavor–I use salt flakes when roasting vegetables. It’s funny how many times I have done this combo as a nibbling snack for friends and clients only to watch which vegetable disappears the fastest and it’s always the fennel! It also makes for a colorful topping for a hearty salad of greens–just gently separate the vegetables as you set them on to avoid clumping.