Sunday, August 18, 2013

What Is Fennel? – August 18, 2013

Until a few years ago, I had no idea what fennel even looked like.  It was a remote vegetable that I knew was used in French fish recipes.  I was mostly familiar with the seed found in some unusual recipes for its mild licorice flavor.  This all changed when I found a recipe for Apple Fennel Salad (see last August). 

Every year about this time, John and I visit the apple orchards in central Kentucky.  You can buy from the store or pick your own, but we like to purchase the boxes of seconds for pennies on the dollar.  We get giant bags of apples and pears, so I’m always looking for a new way to make them in addition to the usual pies and applesauce. 

Then, this year we grew our own fennel and it was a great idea.  It grew so well in our area.  I tried it in two beds and it grew best in firm soil.  This is great because fennel being unusual is often expensive.  The main stalk looks a lot like a bulbous celery and is the part you use for the salad.  You can also use the fronds in recipes.  They are beautiful on a platter with whole cooked fish on top.  I freeze some in freezer bags, but usually throw much away because it is less useful than the bulbs.

Pickled Fennel
3 c. Champagne vinegar
1 1/2 c. water
3/4 c. plus 1 T. sugar
4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. coriander seeds
2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 bulbs fennel, sliced

Bring first four ingredients to boil until dissolved.  Toast spices and divide between 4 pint jars.  Pack in fennel.  You can add a fennel frond on top.  Pour brine over, seal and boil 15 minutes.

We had so many fennel, I now had to get adventurous with it.  This was easy and delicious:

Fennel Fish Stew
3 T. olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lemon thinly sliced
2 minced cloves garlic
2 T. tomato paste
4 Roma tomatoes or an equal amount of cherry tomatoes, sliced
2 c. dry white wine
2 c. fish, veggie or chicken stock
1 ½ lb. cod or Pollock fillets, cut in 8 chunks
Fresh parsley

Add oil, onions, fennel, bay leaf, salt and pepper to pot on medium and cook until tender, but not brown, 6-8 minutes.  Add lemon, garlic and paste and stir until reddish brown.  Add tomatoes and another pinch salt.  Cook until tomatoes break up, stirring, about 10 minutes.

Add the wine and scrape up any bits on the bottom of the pan and bring to a simmer. Simmer uncovered until most of the wine has evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the stock, raise to a simmer then add the fish into the pot, and simmer until fish is cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Serve warm with a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

One Year Ago - Watermelon Rind Pickles and Watermelon Salad

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