I love fennel. It's one of my favourite vegetables. I am a real licorice lover and so I love it's mild licorice taste. It's wonderful braised and roasted, but my favourite way to eat it is raw.
There are two types of fennel. One is grown for it's seeds, which are delicious in sauces, and the other is grown for use as a vegetable, the most common type being Florence Fennel, which has a bulbous base, stalks which closely resemble celery and feathery fronds on top.
Did you know that there are male and female bulbs? The males are taller and more slender with the females being shorter and more bulbous. I like the females myself. Crisp and slightly sweet, fennel is wonderful served raw in salads, and meltingly mellow and soft when braised, roasted or grilled. It goes wonderfully with other crisp vegetables and is most delicious with fish. A whole salmon stuffed with fennel and roasted is absolutely wonderful.
The bulbs should be heavy and white, firm and free of cracks, browning, or moist areas. The stalks should be crisp, with feathery, bright-green fronds. You can keep fennel for a few days in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic, but try not to keep it more than a day or two because the flavor diminishes as it dries out.
I made a delicious slaw yesterday with some fennel that I picked up at the local green grocers at the weekend. I think I'll have the rest of it for my lunch today. This was really good.
*Carrot and Fennel Slaw*
This delicious slaw makes a light and refreshing change from regular coleslaw. I use my mandolin to slice the fennel and my box grater to do the carrots. But you could use the slicing and grating discs in a food processor as well, which would make really quick work of it. I love the mustard in the dressing. It adds a lovely bite to it. Adjust accordingly if you don't like things with a bite. Make the dressing first so that the flavours have time to really develop.
1 small to medium sized fennel bulb
3 cups peeled, shredded carrots (about 4 to 5 large carrots)
1/2 cup of minced red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
5 TBS fresh orange juice
1 TBS of White Balsamic Vinegar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 to 1 1/2 tsp dry mustard powder
2 TBS really good quality extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
Place all the dressing ingredients into a glass jar with a lid, and give it a good shake. Set aside.
Remove the top greens and stalks from the fennel bulb. Save the feathery greens for the slaw. Trim off any bruised or tough pieces. Quarter the bulb and then cut out the core. Shred half of it using a grater, mandolin or food processor. Reserve the other half for another use. You should have about 1 cup of grated vegetable. Place it into a medium sized bowl, along with the carrot, onion, chopped fennel leaves and coriander. Toss together to mix. Just before serving, give the dressing a good shake and pour it over the slaw. Mix well and serve.