Firm and crunchy, with a fresh, bright, licorice taste? Must be fennel! Fennel belongs to the Umbelliferaefamily, which includes carrots, parsley and dill. Native to the shores of the Mediterranean, fennel is used not only in Southern European cooking, but also in India and the Middle East for both culinary and medicinal purposes. Fennel is a carminative, which means it soothes the stomach, and in many parts of the world its seeds are chewed as an after-dinner digestive and breath freshener. In the Northeast, it is harvested throughout the summer and early fall.
* To store, remove the leaves and stalk from the bulb and refrigerate unwashed, separately wrapped in damp towels. Fennel will keep 3-4 days this way, but is best used fresh.
*To prepare the bulb, rinse and cut into quarters. Remove the core if it seems very hard. The bulb can be grilled, sauteed, baked, braised or steamed. Try it sliced thinly in salads! The stalk is usually tough and stringy, and best used for soup stocks. The leaves can be added to salads, soups or other dishes. Try using them in place of dill, such as with baked or broiled fish.
RECIPE of the week:
Fennel Slaw with Mint
* 2 T. lemon juice
* 2 tsp. minced shallots
* 1/2 tsp. mustard
* 1/2 tsp. salt
* 1 tsp. sugar (may substitute agave)
* 1 T. fresh mint, chopped
* 1/4 cup olive oil
* 1 large fennel (bulb, stalks and leaves)
* 1 T. capers, roughly chopped (invest in one jar now, and it will last you for a season's worth of recipes!)
1. To make the vinaigrette: In a bowl, mix the first six ingredients, then drizzle in oil while whisking vigorously until emulsified and thick. Taste and set aside. (This can also be done in a blender; follow the same steps, but omit the whisking.)
2. Cut fennel bulb lengthways (not across) and slice stalks and leaves as thinly as possible. In a bowl, toss together with chopped capers.
3. Toss salad with vinaigrette. Taste and serve at room temperature or chilled.
-- Thanks to Community Cook Louise Noel for the recipe, and to Just Food for the fennel tips! For more recipes, check out the Corbin Hill blog and Facebook page.