Fabulous Fennel, plus an Italian side-dish

Braised fennel with chinese chicken

Fennel makes a great side for barbecued chicken.

What’s Fennel?

Fennel’s a bit of an odd vegetable. Although it turns up in the produce departments of most super markets, it’s not really a regular guest at most people’s tables. Fennel’s best pals with Celery, another kind-of-blah veggie that is often left languishing. These two veggies have the same pale greenish-white crisp flesh. And Fennel’s stalks grow around one another like Celery’s stalks do. Both veggies can be served raw or cooked. And both have a fibrous, mild flavor.

But Fennel deserves a closer look. Once you get to know it, you’ll see it’s loaded with character. Fennel’s bulb is roundish, rather than stalky like celery. Celery’s leaves are wide and flat. But Fennel’s leaves are wispy and needle-like, ferny… similar to dill. And they are ever so edible on salads or in soup.

DSCN3847

Where Fennel shines is in its taste… Unique! Exquisite!

Serving fennel

Fennel out-does Celery on the taste front every time. Imagine something like mild licorice, slightly sweet and juicy on the tongue. This gentle veggie becomes exotic when you treat it kindly.

I borrowed a fennel recipe from blog I follow and served it as a side to chicken, rather than as a pasta sauce which was the suggested idea.

I’m not a fan of pasta. Sometimes I’ll make a whole-wheat variety just to mix up my carbs a bit. But I find pasta low on nutrients and high on simple carbs that our bodies too easily change straight into sugar.

And if there’s one thing I dislike more than pasta, it’s sugar.

Braised fennel

Fennel side-dish, with bacon, wine, and grated cheese

  • 1 or 2 slices back bacon, chopped
  • 1 onion (I used a red one)
  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds (don’t leave these out as they are so healthy and great to have on hand)
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • freshly grated hard cheese (I used Parmesan)
  1. Cut the fennel and the onion in quarters and then in thin slices.
  2. Chop the bacon.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the onion. Cook over medium low heat for about 5 minutes or until the onion is soft and fragrant.
  4. Add the fennel seeds and the fennel.
  5. Sauté over medium heat for a few minutes.
  6. Now add the bacon and continue to sauté a few more minutes.
  7. Add the white wine.
  8. Cook over low heat until the fennel is tender but still firm to the bite. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  9. Add freshly grated cheese.
  10. Toss to mix.
  11. Serve immediately on warm plates.
Braised fennel

Braised fennel

 

Fennel’s health benefits

Fennel is an excellent vegetable in your army of disease fighters. Its fiber helps in digestion and its unusual antioxidants reduce inflammation and protect the liver from damage. In particular, a powerful antioxidant in the oil of its seeds prevents toxic chemical damage to your cells’ tissues. Be sure to add these to your veggie dishes to up their nutrition and taste. Fennel has lots of vitamin C and a whole bag of minerals used in the smooth operation of your body. Heart disease and colon cancer are cowered by its power.

New tastes are the spice of life. So if you don’t know Fennel already, wait no longer to try it. If it’s the first time for you, the taste is somewhat unusual. Try it a few times to see how best to incorporate it into your meal plan.

More ideas for using Fennel

Besides this delicious recipe for an Italian side-dish, here are a few other ways to serve Fennel. Live it up!

  • Sauté fennel with onions for a simple side dish. Try it with scallops.
  • Combine sliced fennel with avocados, and oranges for a delightful salad.
  • Adorn a sandwich with sliced fennel, in addition to the traditional toppings of lettuce and tomato.
  • Top thinly sliced fennel with plain yogurt and mint leaves.
Here's Fennel with apple, topped with Greek yogurt sweetened with stevia and  zapped with ginger and cinnamon.

Here’s Fennel with apple, topped with Greek yogurt sweetened with stevia and zapped with ginger and cinnamon.

15 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. John N. Frank
    Mar 09, 2014 @ 18:24:23

    Thanks for this, I reblogged it, mentioning how I’d leave out the bacon and sub low-fat or fat-free cheese so it would fit into my low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar diet. I often make fennel braised in the oven, boiling ti first then putting it under a broiler with a light coating of panko breadcrumbs and low-fat parma. It’s always a side dish that surprises guests not familiar with it. I often eat it raw as a snack too, grew up loving it.It’s always fun for me to see some of the Italian foods of my youth gain wider acceptance in the food world these days.

    http://nosaltnofatnosugar.com/2013/12/27/blackberry-expect-to-be-seeing-the-flavor-more-places-in-2014/

    Reply

    • Vinny Grette
      Mar 09, 2014 @ 21:29:43

      Thanks for the reblog! I use Canadian bacon because it’s quite lean. I think I’d prefer to try goat’s cheese or feta rather than a low-fat processed cheese… have you found a good one?

      Reply

      • Vinny Grette
        Mar 09, 2014 @ 21:31:39

        Fennel is a new taste sensation for me, and I wish I’d found it a lot sooner, John!

        Reply

      • John N. Frank
        Mar 16, 2014 @ 16:43:17

        I’ve been using Kroger’s fat-free mozzarella. It’s not the best and is still high in sodium. I just found a lower-salt Dutch cheese at a cheese store in Wisconsin, hoping that’s tasty. I also use Athenos fat-free feta which I use on salads and enjoy.

        Reply

        • Vinny Grette
          Mar 16, 2014 @ 16:51:04

          I’ve tried the low-fat mozzarellas with not much luck either. I’ll try out your fat-free feta, as I really like goats cheese. It has some flavor and a creaminess that I prefer.I’ll eat anything that is less than 20% BF once in a while, though. I focus more on cutting out sugar and refined flours. It’s not easy being lean!

          Reply

  2. StefanGourmet
    Mar 09, 2014 @ 11:44:20

    Hi, thanks for the shout out and glad you liked my recipe!
    The fennel seeds are very important to the flavor of this recipe. You should try it with (Italian) sausage too. I will try it with pancetta.
    Other ideas for fennel:
    Fennel Gratin (http://stefangourmet.com/2013/12/02/fennel-gratin-finocchi-gratinati/)
    Fennel Fondant (http://stefangourmet.com/2013/05/17/fennel-sous-vide-fondant/)
    Deep-fried Fennel (http://stefangourmet.com/2013/03/22/deep-fried-fennel-finocchi-dorati/)
    Caramelized Fennel (http://stefangourmet.com/2012/11/26/caramelized-fennel/)
    Braised Fennel (http://stefangourmet.com/2011/12/04/sous-vide-cod-with-braised-fennel-and-white-wine-sauce/)
    Fennel Risotto (http://stefangourmet.com/2012/04/26/fennel-risotto-with-sea-bream-risotto-di-finocchio-con-orata/)

    Reply

    • Vinny Grette
      Mar 09, 2014 @ 12:41:58

      You are awesome, Stefan! It’s often the way that the healthiest parts are the most flavorful:). I used Canadian back bacon (because it’s what I had… and it’s leaner), and the dish tasted wonderful. But we do buy Italian sausage occasionally and when we do, I’ll try it with fennel. Maybe I’ll go all out for my gourmet dinner group, who are coming to my place in March:). Am serving Mimi’s claret cup to start. My theme this year will be blogger’s recipes, I think.

      Reply

  3. Good For You Nutrition
    Mar 05, 2014 @ 13:41:03

    Being Italian, I grew up eating Fennel as a snack, raw without any dips. I have to admit I haven’t eaten it in years, I’m inspired to try your recipe! Thanks:)

    Reply

    • Vinny Grette
      Mar 05, 2014 @ 14:19:28

      We never had fennel while I was growing up in Canada. We’ve always had celery and ate it raw, as you did with fennel. Fennel seems to be more common here now, as are many other fruits and veggies. I’ve just learned to like fennel in the past few years and I wish I’d tried it long ago! I had a fennel stir-fry last night and it was delicious!

      Reply

  4. rawfooddiaries
    Mar 04, 2014 @ 21:17:12

    Some great ideas!:)

    Reply

  5. Maisa Leibovitz
    Mar 04, 2014 @ 16:56:32

    I just “discovered” fennel and I am in love with it! So versatile and yeah, definitely a good alternative to celery.

    Reply

    • Vinny Grette
      Mar 04, 2014 @ 18:08:17

      Fennel would be good with any party dip where you might usually find celery, I suspect. I loved the fennel and apple I tried today:). And Stefan’s sauteed side dish is really special!

      Reply

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