Befriending Fennel

Confession: I don’t like fennel. I have never really used fennel and I think I don’t like it.

Last week, we received one small fennel bulb with stalks and fronds. I promptly did with it the only thing I know how to do with fennel, I dispatched it to the freezer to be used in a future fish stock. My favorite fish stock, found here, uses a single bulb of fennel and bulbs used in those stocks remain the only time I have ever used or eaten this locally grown item.

This week, my fennel problem multiplied to two larger plants. Wuh Oh. Game on, fennel.

So, I took to the couch for “research and development” – meaning I combed all my favorite local-foods inspired cookbooks in a big stack. Then, I got to work. First, I separated the plant into three parts, bulb, stalks and fronds. The bulbs went into a produce bag in the fridge. The stalks became more fodder for stock and I separated the fronds, wrapping them in a moist towel inside another bag in the fridge.

Next I chose two promising looking recipes: fennel frond pesto and sauteed fennel and onions. Both come from the CSA Cookbook. Today was “Fennel Frond Pesto” day and my adapted recipe is below.

Fennel fronds smell like licorice and are, honestly, pretty tedious to remove. As a size reference, the two bulbs were fairly small and even still the fronds amounted to about 4 packed cups, twice what I needed.

Fennel Frond Pesto

  • 2c packed fennel fronds
  • 1-2tbs chopped ginger
  • 1/3c olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • juice and zest from 1 full lemon
  • 1/3c raw sunflower seeds
  • 1/2tsp salt
  • ground pepper to taste

Above is my amended recipe- going by the book’s recipe, my pesto was very dense and lacked a bit of ‘zing’ – it looked and tasted a little like something the lawnmower spit out. I added more olive oil, lemon juice and garlic. There is also no cheese in this recipe. It’s still fairly dense as is, but I would consider adding some grated cheese.

And the final verdict? Not bad! Certainly, there was no heavy licorice flavor like I anticipated. Next up? Sauteed fennel bulbs with onions!

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