It often seems that the things that are truly healthy for us have no real benefits for our health, or can even harm us, which can make it difficult to plan delicious, nourishing meals. Fortunately, the fennel plant is an exception to this common observation: packed with vitamin C, which promotes a healthy immune system, the herb is also known for its unique fennel flavor, which adds a sweet, spicy taste similar to anise. The fennel plants themselves reach its peak season in fall and winter, and can often be found at farmers markets during these seasons. However, smart cooks can also get that interesting fennel flavor in the off seasons by using fennel seeds and fennel pollen, known as the most potent form of the seasoning. Whatever form of this plant you use, there are plenty of ways to use it to create healthy, delicious meals. Read on to learn some easy, interesting ways to add fennel flavor to your dishes!
Cut the bulb into wide, 1/2 inch rounds, similar to how you would slice an onion. Next, brush the pieces with olive oil, throw them on a hot grill or griddle, and let each side sit for about five minutes for sweet, smoky taste.
As with grilling, cut your fennel into 1/2 inch rounds or vertically into triangular ridges. Then, toss these pieces in a pan with a half tablespoon of olive oil or a combination of oil and butter. Feel free to add salt, pepper and other seasonings if you want to play with that famous fennel flavor.
Add It To Stews and Soups
This is one of the most versatile uses, as you can use all of the different forms of the plant. For example, you can saute cuts of the bulb until soft and add them to the beginning stages of your soup, or you can add raw cuts to a slow-cooking braise. However, you can also adds wild crafted pollens to a stew or soup the same way you would add other seasonings.
Mix It In With Roasted Vegetables
Cut your fennel bulb into pieces of any shape, add it to a mixture of other roasting vegetables (such as potatoes, carrots, turnips, mushrooms and more), cover the combination with olive oil and herbs and roast it in the oven in a pan or dutch oven. However, if you’re looking for another way to add fennel flavor, you can also add the seeds or fennel powder to the mixture along with your other herbs.
Season Your Risotto
Fennel is great in risottos, especially when it is combined with sun-dried tomatoes and pine nuts. Some chefs recommend sauteing finely diced fennel in butter or oil before adding rice to the pan and cooking as usual by slowly adding liquids like vegetable broth and white wine. However, traditional Italian and Tuscan cooking use fennel pollen as a seasoning in this type of dish instead.
There are countless easy and healthy ways to use the various forms of fennel in your cooking, ranging from interesting aperitifs and simple main courses to unique desserts for special occasions. How do you use fennel in your home? Share your favorite recipes in the comments below!