You may have to hunt a little to find fennel at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market, but it’s worth the search.
Fennel looks like flattened celery with its interwoven stalks emerging from a bulbous end. The stalks are topped off with feathery fronds. Its mild, sweet flavor will remind you of licorice or anise.
Eaten raw, fennel has a crunchy texture like celery. Cooking mellows the flavor. It makes a great vegetable side dish on its own or adds flavor to soups and stews. In the recipe below the fennel bulb is roasted to bring out its sweetness. The whole plant is edible.
In France they grill the stalks and fronds so the fennel scent permeates the grilled food. Fennel pairs well with fish, poultry and bland meats, such as veal.
To prepare, cut the stalks off where they meet the bulb. Remove any dry or pulpy outer layer. It’s best to enjoy fennel while it’s fresh; it doesn’t freeze well. Keep in the refrigerator and use within 4 days.
Roasted Beet and Fennel Soup with Apple
6 medium beets* (about 1 1/2 pounds) trimmed & scrubbed
2 fennel bulbs* (2 cups sliced lengthwise, save the fronds for garnish)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 large leeks*, trimmed, thoroughly washed & chopped
2 large tart apples*, such as Granny Smith (2 cups), peeled, cored, and chopped
6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
8 teaspoons nonfat plain yogurt or sour cream
chopped fennel fronds
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Wrap the cleaned and trimmed beets in foil and place them on a sheet pan.
Toss sliced fennel with 1 tablespoon oil, spread in a single layer in a baking dish. Bake fennel for approximately 40 minutes or until golden brown.
Roast beets for about 1 hour, or until tender when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife. (Roast fennel and beets at the same time.)
Allow beets to cool then trim off the roots, rub off the skin, and coarsely chop.
Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, warm the olive oil and sauté the leeks until tender (about 6 minutes). Add the apple and continue to sauté an additional 6-7 minutes, or until apples are tender.
Add broth to soup pot. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cook 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add beets, half the roasted fennel and vinegar.
Working in batches, puree mixture in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return puree to the pot, add the other half of the fennel and reheat.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve into soup bowl, swirl in a teaspoon of yogurt or sour cream, and some chopped fennel fronds. Makes 8 servings.
Nutrition per serving: 130 calories, 4g fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 3g protein, 23g carbohydrate, 5g dietary fiber, 0 mg cholesterol, 500 mg sodium.
Ingredients marked with an asterik (*) are available at the Saratoga Farmers’ Market. For more information about food and nutrition contact Diane Whitten at Cornell Cooperative Extension, firstname.lastname@example.org, 885-8995.