Sunday, July 1, 2012

yes, the fennel looks like clem

Fennel is one of my favorite summer flavors. Give me greens with fennel and cucumber and that's all I need for salad. Your grocery store might sell it as anise, though the anise used for anise seed and other anise flavorings is a separate member of the Apiaceae family (which also includes carrots and parsnips and Queen Anne's lace, celery, parsley and cilantro, cumin, dill... - it's a busy family!) It's a fresh, bright flavor, a "green" flavor but not the way iron- and chlorophyll-rich foods like spinach are. Despite the fact that people who don't like it think of licorice as a strong flavor, fennel is no stronger than a mild cucumber.

You want to discard the outer layer, the stalks, and the core at the base of the bulb, though both are good for the stock pot. Fennel has a celery-like texture, though it's tougher than supermarket celery, and a faint anise/licorice flavor. It's great with onions, celery, sausage, tomato, eggs, and damn near any herb.

Raw fennel in salad:

Salad with fennel
With cucumber slices, escarole, casatica di bufala cheese, leftover roast chicken, and the fennel fronds (which I don't always use). The dressing is essentially simple: I had taken both "green" garlic (young baby garlic) and black garlic (garlic aged until it turns black and soft) and pickled them in vinegar. Blended some of the pickled bulbs and some of the vinegar with olive oil and salt. The end.

Caramelized fennel in eggs scrambled with Maplebrook Farms ricotta, Humboldt Fog goat cheese (always worth a plug, my favorite goat cheese on the planet), and tarragon (with a bit of country ham):

Country ham, eggs with caramelized fennel/tarragon/ricotta
You "caramelize" fennel just like you would onions: chop it, put it in a pan, and cook it slowly until it's thoroughly browned. When sauteed, fennel is more reluctant than onion to wilt and soften, so add a spoonful of water and cover the pan until it's done so, to make it easier on yourself.

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