June Produce Spotlight: Fennel

June 24, 2011

Fennel 
Photo: worldcommunitycookbook.org

It’s June and summer is finally here. Along with summer come beach trips, extended daylight hours and the ability to eat outside, something I miss most when the temperatures are subzero. Farmers markets are also bursting with fresh produce that is ripe for the eating.

This month’s produce spotlight is on the root vegetable fennel. Fennel is used in many different types of cuisine, especially Mediterranean, and is served both raw and cooked. It has a distinct anise flavor, somewhat like black licorice, as well as close ties to celery and celery root. Fennel is an aromatic so it adds a big punch of flavor to whatever dish it’s added to, and it’s packed with vitamin C and dietary fiber.

When you are picking your fennel, you want to choose one with a crisp white bulb and bright green fronds. This will guarantee freshness. To start working with your fennel, cut off the green stems and remove the outermost layer of the white bulb. Halve the bulb and cut out the inner core from each half. Save the fennel fronds to use as fresh herbs or as a garnish for your completed dish!

Here are some ways to use this root veggie in your summer cooking:

  • Halve a fennel bulb and slice thinly. Toss with grapefruit segments, toasted walnuts, salt, pepper, oil and grapefruit juice for a fresh side salad.
  • Slice fennel, cucumbers and red onion. Mix plain Greek yogurt, fresh dill, salt and pepper. Combine yogurt dressing with sliced veggies.
  • Sauté fennel and onions until caramelized and serve as a topping for burgers or hot dogs. 
  • Instead of the traditional mirepoix (carrots, onions and celery), start your soups with parsnips, leeks and fennel.
  • Top plain yogurt with a drizzle of honey, thinly sliced fennel and fresh mint for a refreshing snack.
  • Mix chopped fennel fronds with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper for a quick fennel vinaigrette and serve over a summer salad with fresh veggies, sliced fennel, sliced strawberries and crumbled goat cheese.
  • Slice a fennel bulb in 1-inch pieces. Toss with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and roast in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes.

For more ideas on how to cook with fennel, click here. Enjoy!

Plus! Get some tips on how to use May’s featured produce, asparagus, here!