Sunday, May 16, 2010


Last week, I posted a healthy, low fat, low calorie, high fiber dish for a Reader Request . Sounds boring, I know. But it was really yummy. As a matter of fact, later that same week, I made eight individual packets of the Tilapia With Vegetables in Olive Oil and Tarragon Sauce. I put one large or two small fillets in the packet with the veggies and seasonings and I ate if for lunch every day! It was that good. I have three left, so I froze them for another time.

For this week, I have another reader request who asked for good ways to use Fennel. Fennel is as beautiful growing as it is delicious. It has a light anise flavor and gets very sweet when cooked, sort of like a Vidalia onion, except not oniony. The tops can be eaten too and make a beautiful garnish. I grew some last year and before I could pick it all, it went to seed. So I let the seeds mature on the plant and harvested them. I keep them in a little jar and use them in spice mixes that I make myself, and I've used them in soups and marinades too. They would be wonderful ground up a little and used in home made bread, rolls, scones or cookies. Hmm, that gives me some ideas!

As it happens I love fennel so I've used it a time or two. I have found that it's a vegetable that not a lot of people have tried. It's gaining in popularity and there are a multitude of ways to use it in hot or cold dishes. I'll post a few different ideas for using it but with the warmer weather coming, I'm going to feature a cold dish. Shaved Fennel and Orange Salad. I couldn't find the recipe I used to use. My recipe box is still in the attic - a place I do not venture. So I looked up several on the Internet. None of them appealed separately, so I used what I thought were the best of each of them. Here's is what I came up with. Although the salad itself is fairly unique because so many people don't know about fennel, it's not a unique recipe. There are dozens of fennel salad recipes. Try looking for some others on the Internet. Don't let the seemingly lengthy directions put you off. It's really easy to make. Cut up a few ingredients, mix a dressing, and you are done.


1 med. to large fennel bulb
3 small - medium navel oranges, or buy a jar of orange sections
1/4 c. dried cranberries
1/4 c. chopped pecans

For the dressing:
1/3 c. olive oil
1 med shallot or 1/2 of a small red onion, minced finely (or 1 t. dried onion flakes)
juice from one orange (plus extra)
1 T orange zest
1 small lemon, juiced (I didn't have fresh so I used store bought, but fresh would be best)
2 T. Dijon mustard
2 T. finely minced fennel top greens
1 t. salt
1 t. ground black pepper

For the oranges: if you are using fresh navel oranges, peel two of them with a knife and cut the sections from the pulp. This is called "supreming". Here is a link on how to do that.

(You could also use a jar of orange sections that you can get at the grocery, but again, fresh would be best). Or, instead of cutting out the sections, slice off the peel with a knife so all the white is gone, and just slice them across the sections into 1/4 in slices. Put the orange pieces in a bowl. As they sit there, some juice will accumulate in the bottom of the bowl - pour this into a measuring cup to use for the dressing. Take the third orange and use a zester to get about a tablespoon of zest from it. Now cut it in half and just squeeze all the juice from it into the measuring cup for the dressing.

Chop off the long green stems of the fennel. If you have one, use a mandolin to shave the fennel bulb. If you don't have one, use a good sharp knife to cut it into the thinnest slices you can. Place the shaved fennel into a large bowl.

For the Dressing:
Dice the shallot (or red onion or a little dried onion flake if you don't have an onion) and add it to the measuring cup with the orange juice. Add all the other dressing ingredients and use a fork of a small whisk to mix vigorously until it thickens up. Taste it and re-season with salt or pepper if needed.

Pour the dressing over the fennel, oranges and dried cranberries. Mix well and let sit for about 10 minutes. Stir well. Serve with pecans sprinkled on top as a side dish, or as a lite lunch with some crusty bread and butter. This is a refreshing and unique salad you are sure to enjoy!

In the picture above I served it with Chive and Fontina Risotto Cakes. They were soooo good! Creamy and cheesy on the inside and crispy on the outside. They were wonderful with this Fennel Salad. I'd love to make these and have my girlfriends over for a lunch on the patio with a nice glass of chilly white wine - or two. Here is the link for that recipe from Ina Garten on the Food Network:

One of my favorite ways to use fennel in a warm dish is to slice the fennel and saute in some olive oil. Then I add just a little salt and pepper and use it as a topping on a grilled steak. Luscious!

It's also delicious added to rice. Just slice a whole bulb like you would an onion and saute in olive oil until soft with a little bit of salt and pepper. Then add it to a pot of almost finished rice and let it cook with the rice until the rice is done. Serve it as a side with any meat or fish, or dice up your meat or fish and add it to the rice as a one dish meal.

It can be sliced like an onion from top to bottom, brushed with live oil and grilled as a side for chicken, beef or pork or fish.

Here is a link to a recipe for a wonderfully lite fennel soup:

Here is another fennel and orange salad that has arugula and a honey-lemon dressing.

Here's one for Fennel and Fig Scones! I will want to try these!!!

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