This is one of my absolute summer favorites! It's so refreshing and delicious, and super easy. For a long time, I didn't know what to do with fennel, so it would just sit in my fridge. Then I found this recipe for fennel apple salad, and the world of fennel opened up to me. I started using it in many other things and couldn't wait for it to come into season on the farm. Some people say they like it grilled, but I like this salad much better. You can add to pasta sauces, either a fresh marinara or a white wine sauce, and it's delicious. Spice up a squash bake, or add caramelized onions and fennel to homemade pizza.
Fennel is also super healthy! it has all sorts of minerals and nutrients that are good for you. Potassium, selenium, choline, folate, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, and phytonutrient content, not to mention the fiber! The benefits listed in this article are numerous, ranging from bone health heart health and blood pressure to immunity, reducing inflammation and cancer prevention. (Whew, all that in one little bulb?!)
There are three main parts to fennel that can be used. The bulb, the stems and the fronds.
Heart and outer layer removed (discard what is on the right of the above photo).
Bulb, stems, fronds
Check the stems to be sure they are juicy all the way through and not dry and pithy inside. The ones near my thumb are just starting to get dry, but are still juicy enough that I used all of them.
The bulb is the main part. You'll want to remove the "heart" of the bulb. The base, kindof like a cabbage or cauliflower base. It's much denser, and not as good. If you're cooking fennel, these three parts will be used at different times because of different densities. They each add a distinct texture and color to whatever dish your'e making. Start cooking the bulb first, then the stems, and save the fronds for the final touch. in the raw fennel apple salad below, everything goes in at the same time.
Fennel Apple Salad.
1 medium fennel bulb
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
3 T. lime juice
salt to taste (about 2-3 generous pinches)
Peel the apples, and julienne (thin, long slices). Remove fronds from fennel bulb. Chop small. Use up to 1/2 cup. Separate stems from bulb. Chop dry ends off stems, to use the juicy part of the stems. Chop. Remove outside hard layer and heart of fennel. Julienne the rest (as best you can). Combine all ingredients in a bowl and toss.
Note that when I'm feeling pressed for time, I get out the food processor and just shred everything. It's definitely better julienned, but still good shredded.
To get your fennel, sign up for the CSA and rank it highly on your preferences! Then you'll get it when we have it available. Or you can visit us at the farmers market, Douglass Loop, Phoenix Hill or Nulu.