Halgrimson: Set aside your fennel fearsBulb fennel is one of my favorite vegetables, and one bulb goes a long way.
By: Andrea Hunter Halgrimson, INFORUM
Bulb fennel is one of my favorite vegetables, and one bulb goes a long way.
This variety looks like a very fat, short, squished stalk of celery but with stems covered with frond-like leaves coming out of the top. It is known as Florence fennel or in Italy, finocchio.
When raw, both the chopped flesh and the fronds of bulb fennel are a fine addition to green salads. I also like to simmer chopped fennel with potatoes and mash them together with butter and a little milk or cream. Garnish with a few fronds.
Common fennel is the plant that produces the seeds that are so familiar to pizza lovers. They are also used to flavor liqueurs and have a flavor hinting of anise just as the bulb fennel does. While I do not like the harsh anise taste of licorice, I find the flavor of both bulb and common fennel an interesting addition to meals, or in soups, stews and braises. And with the temperatures as they have been in our so-called spring, soup is a necessity, so I’ll focus on using fennel in soup.
First, we start with the soup’s base. There is almost always a bowl of homemade chicken stock in my fridge. I make stock from the giblets, wing tips, neck and tail. After the chicken is taken from the bone, I add the bones along with a few handfuls of the carrot peels, onion skins, celery ends and parsley I save in the freezer. Covered with water and a little white wine and simmered, covered, for about 50 minutes, it makes a wonderful soup base. Drain and discard bones and vegetables after cooking.
6 to 7 cups chicken stock
1 fennel bulb, with fronds
2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 ribs celery with leaves, chopped
1/2 cup orzo
2 cups cooked chicken, diced
1/2 cup pitted Greek olives, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 teaspoons fennel seed, ground
Bring stock to a simmer in a large pot. Remove fronds from fennel bulb, wash them and roughly chop. Add to stock, cover and cook for 30 to 40 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove cooked fronds, squeezing out the juice, and discard.
Dice fennel bulb and in another pan, sauté onion, celery and fennel in olive oil until onion is translucent. Add rice and cook for a few minutes. Add vegetables and orzo to stock and cook until orzo is almost done. Stir in chicken, olives, salt, pepper and fennel seed. Stir, cover and cook until orzo is done and chicken is heated through. Makes 4 servings.
Source: “The Food Lover’s Companion,” by Sharon Tyler Herbst.