Cooking Vegetables: Fennel

We continue our series of posts about cooking vegetables. We all know we should be eating more of them. But many people think veggies are boring. Well, they can be. But they don’t have to be. There are many different ways to cook vegetables to make them taste good.

Today, we look at a vegetable you probably haven’t thought of as in the running for your pot or your table. Fennel is a bulb with lots of uses. It’s a herb found all around the Mediterranean. It’s very aromatic with a stronger than expected flavor that hints of anise or licorice. Like beets, nearly all of this plant is used, from the green, feathery tops to the large onion-like bulb. Its seeds are a frequently used spice.

Fennel has lots of medicinal uses, from a flavoring for bad tasting compounds to a cure for intestinal problems like gas. Some studies have shown it can help in the treatment of glaucoma or as a diuretic to reduce high blood pressure. Old wives tales say it’s good for nursing mothers to improve the quantity of breast milk.

It is most often used in soups or stews, but it can stand on it’s own in The Bachelor’s Kitchen. In the store, look for small, unblemished bulbs with bright green stalks and feathery tops. The stalks and tops can go into a stock, but otherwise should be removed at the point where the stalks meet the bulb. For most cooking methods, cut the bulb into one-inch thick pieces. They can be braised in a skillet, roasted in the oven or steamed. All methods except steaming should use extra virgin olive oil to add flavor and soften the flesh of the vegetable.

If you haven’t tried fennel, you might like giving it a try by starting with some roasted fennel in a vegetable soup as an easy introduction to this less common veggie. And since it’s from the Mediterranean, I bet it would go good in an Italian dish with some sauce and pasta.

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