I often hear concerns about gaining weight during the holidays. That’s why I think it’s important to keep fresh fruits and veggies high on your priority list. But, that doesn’t mean you have to be left out of holiday fun. Unique, delicious fall vegetables are abundant and I plan on staying fit as a fiddle by keeping my focus on a variety of versatile vegetables. High on my list is fennel, a unique, aromatic bulb-vegetable that will delight your taste buds and help keep you fit, too. If you’re not sure you’ve ever tried it before, fennel is unmistakable in appearance and flavor. Reminiscent of both licorice and anise, and looking a bit like celery, one crunchy bite tells you this is no ordinary vegetable!
Fennel has been around for eons, dating back to ancient Greece. The slightly sweet, crisp bulb is delicious raw in salads, and is also wonderful when sautéed, braised, roasted or grilled. The leaves (or fronds) look similar to dill. Fennel stands well on its own or pairs beautifully with other raw or cooked veggies, fish and meat. It occupies a unique and important role in cooking among many European countries, especially Italy and France. I first learned to favor fennel when I had it with fish. Since then, I have prepared it in many dishes from raw salads to stir-fries. You’ll find fennel’s flavor most intense when eaten raw, but don’t be shy about cooking it, too!Adding fennel to your menu helps keep you fit with flavor and lots of good benefits:
Taste bud joy!
The bulb is the most edible part. The stalks are crunchy and delicious, but sometimes a little tough. The leaves are great as garnish. Here are some of my favorite ways to enjoy fennel:
As tea from the seeds – this has been popular for many a century! Simply steep a teaspoon of fennel seeds in a cup of hot water for 10 minutes. Strain and enjoy as is or with honey and lemon.
Chopped or sliced and added to vegetable salads. Here’s an Arugula Salad with Fennel and Pine Nuts.
Chop and add to coleslaw, potato salad, tuna, egg or chicken salad.
Roasted like in this Maple Roasted Fennel.
Paired with lamb as in this recipe for Mediterranean Leg of Lamb with Roasted Fennel.
Chopped and added to Waldorf Salad.
Add to an antipasto platter.
Eaten as a snack with dates.
Delicious with other roasted veggies such as beets. Here’s a recipe for Roasted Beet and Fennel Salad with Goat’s Milk Panna Cotta.
Chop the leaves and use as a garnish with veggies, grains, meats, seafood and even fruit salad.
Look for fennel with a clean, firm bulb. Make sure it is not browned, bruised, spotted or split. The stalks should be firm with the leaves a beautiful dark green. The bulb can be white or greenish. Make sure there is no flowering, as this indicates that it is past its prime. The aroma should be fresh and licorice-like. Store it in the fridge for up to five days, but if possible, consume soon after purchasing for the freshest possible flavor. Remember that fennel is abundant from the fall through the early spring, so consider adding this versatile veggie to your holiday menus.Have you tried fennel? Got a favorite recipe? I would love to know!