Fennel Recipes: Cooking with Fennel

Fennel is considered to be both an herb and a vegetable. The seeds are often used as flavoring. The leaves can be used in salads. The bulb can be baked, fried, pickled, and more. The flower can be used as a garnish. Every part of the fennel plant is edible.

Fennel Seeds

Fennel seeds are widely available in markets all over the world, and grace many vegetable stands. Its flavor is close to anise, which provides the main flavoring for liquorice. They can be used to make seed cakes, and are a common ingredient in sausages. They can also be added to soups and stews. They have to be cooked for a while to extract the flavor of the essential oils.

The leaves of fennel are small, resembling dill. Besides being used in salads, they can be used to flavor fish. Fennel leaves provide interesting flavors for tomato sauces and soups. Be careful regarding the amount of leaves used as like vanilla flavoring, a bit of liquorice flavor can go a long way.

Perhaps the most intriguing part of the fennel plant is the bulb, which is really a cluster of stalks at the base of the plant. Like the rest of the plant, the bulb has a slight anise flavor. This can be cut up raw for salads. It is also good in stir fries. It can be roasted or grilled. When cut it is crisp; when cooked it becomes softer and the taste mellows.

Fresh fennel can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. Nevertheless, over time it will lose flavor and crispness. Fennel seeds, dried, can be stored for long periods of time in a jar in a cool dry place.

Sauteed Fennel

An easy way to prepare fennel bulbs, fresh plucked from the garden, is to saute. This can be done by cutting the fennel bulb into rounds, in the manner of an onion. Place in warm pan over medium heat in melted butter or olive oil. Sprinkle on salt and pepper to taste. Add other fresh herbs, such as basil and parsley. To give it more body, try adding sliced carrots.

Fennel Au Gratin

Cut up fennel bulbs can be added to potatoes au gratin. Fennel can also be the main feature of an au gratin dish. Cut up several fennel bulbs, and layer in a deep glass baking dish. Pour over heavy cream and sprinkle generously with gruyere and parmesan cheese. Spice as desired, salt and pepper, or thyme and nutmeg. Bake the dish in the oven at 375 for about an hour (or less depending on the depth of the dish).

Fennel and Cucumber Salad

An interesting salad is fennel and cucumber salad. Very simply, peel and cut up two medium sized cucumbers. Sprinkle with vinegar and oil. Toss with 1/4 cup fennel leaves, dried basil, black pepper, and a tablespoon of parsley. For an added kick, add 1/3 cup thinly sliced fennel bulb.

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