Wondering what fennel tastes like? Or how you prepare it?
Fennel is often described as having licorice flavor. At many grocery stores, you will find it in the produce section labeled as anise or sweet anise. When eaten raw, it's crunchy.
Fennel has a creamy white, bulbous base with thick stems sprouting out that look like celery ribs. Attached to the stems are feathery fronds. The base of the stems are light in color and extend to a light green.
The base, stems and fronds of fennel are edible, raw or cooked. It's the base that is used most often in recipes. You can add diced fennel to soups, cut it into chunks for stews, cook pieces with a roast, or slice and saute or roast. When cooked, fennel's licorice flavor tends to become milder and sweeter.
Look for blemish-free bulbs that are plump with pale green stems.
To prepare the fennel, trim the bottom of the base and cut the bulb at the point where the stems start sprouting out.
Trim the base of the fennel and cut the bulb in half. Using a paring knife, remove the inner core, which tends to be tough. Place the fennel bulb halves cut-side down and thinly slice to use raw in salads or to saute.
When using raw, especially in a mixed-green salad, I find it's best to use a mandoline to thinly slice the fennel. Or you can use the thin slicing disk of a food processor. And don't forget to coarsely chop and toss in those feathery fronds to mix in with the salad greens.
High-temperature roasting brings out fennel's natural sweetness and caramelizes it. To roast, cut the fennel bulb in quarters or smaller, including some of the stems. Place the pieces on a large, sided baking sheet. Drizzle with some olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place in a preheated 400-degree oven for about 40 minutes or until browned on the edges and tender.
For a simple salad of shaved fennel, I use the following recipe I saw Alice Waters demonstrate on a PBS program.
Here's what you need: 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed, core removed and very thinly sliced. Chop the fennel fronds for garnish. Whisk together 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, grated zest of 1/4 lemon, 1 tablespoon of regular or white wine vinegar, salt and pepper to taste. Slowly whisk in 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss the fennel with the dressing. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed and garnish with chopped fennel fronds.