Taking the Bitter with the Sweet

By Sandy Hu
The latest from Inside Special Fork

I despise licorice but I love fennel. Go figure.

Recently, I was thrilled to find fennel bulbs at a great price at the farmers’ market. They were nice and fresh and I couldn’t resist buying a bagful.

Fennel bulbs are whitish or light green; the skin should be smooth, without blemishes. The fronds, which can be used as a garnish or added to salads, should look healthy. Store fennel in a plastic bag in the crisper of your fridge; it’s best to use in a few days, or within a week, although, honestly, I’ve kept them longer.

I roasted two fennel bulbs, which turns them soft and sweet. I added part of another bulb to a salad. For salads, you’ll want to slice the bulb as thinly as possible—ideally with a mandoline slicer. If you don’t have one, you can take a vegetable peeler to it. Or use a sharp knife.

Roasted Fennel
2 large fennel bulbs (10 ounces each)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 425° F. Cut fennel in half lengthwise; turn cut-side down and cut in ½-inch slices, cutting from the top of the bulb to the core. Place slices on rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and toss until slices are well-coated. Spread out in a single layer and season with salt and pepper.

Roast for 15 minutes, turn slices over and continue to roast until fennel is soft and edges begin to crisp, about 10 to 15 minutes more.

Makes 3 to 4 servings.

Notes:

  • Scrape up the olive oil with a rubber spatula and add to the fennel as a sauce—the oil will have delicious fennel flavor. You can also decrease the oil to 2 tablespoons if you prefer the finished dish to be drier.
  • In addition to serving as a side dish, the fennel and roasted fennel oil can be used to top pizzas or added to sandwiches or pasta.

Fennel and Orange Salad
1 orange
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ to ½ teaspoon honey
Freshly ground black pepper
3 cups arugula, lightly packed
¼ small fennel bulb, sliced thinly or shaved with a vegetable peeler
A few thin slices red onion

To prepare orange: Peel orange with a sharp paring knife, removing all the white pith. Cut out orange segments between the membranes and set aside. Take what remains of the whole orange and squeeze between your fingers to extract juice. You should have about 1 tablespoon orange juice.

To make the dressing: In medium salad bowl, add the orange juice and vinegar. Whisk in the olive oil a little at a time, whisking briskly until the dressing thickens and emulsifies. Season with salt, honey and pepper. Taste and adjust seasoning.

To assemble: add arugula, fennel and onion to the salad bowl Toss well with dressing, add orange segments, toss again and serve immediately.

Makes 2 to 3 servings.

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Posted: Jan 17th by Sandy_Hu