I'm SO ready for spring - not only for the warmer weather, but the vibrant colors and flavors associated with the season (which happens to be my favorite of the four, by the way). When two beautiful heads of broccoli arrived in my organic food order this week so I decided to saute them with some onion and garlic and then simmer with some vegetable broth in my slow cooker to make a gorgeous spring-green soup. For flavoring I added some curry powder, red pepper, crystalized ginger and cumin. I cooked it on high for a couple hours and then dialed it back to low. To up the protein content and make it creamy I put in a scoop of garbanzo bean flour and a few splashes of soy milk. Once it was nice and soft I pureed it all with my stick blender. For extra protein and a crunchy contrast, I garnished it off with some edamame, cooked quinoa and a sprinkle of salty Parmesan cheese. Accompanied by a piece of crusty multigrain bread this made a delicious hearty dinner that was even better for lunch the next day - yum!
Fennel: spicy-sweet, crunchy and refreshing. Hailing originally from southern Europe where it is highly featured in Mediterranean cooking, many Americans are now starting to embrace its unique deliciousness.
When eaten raw, fennel has a strong licorice flavor, providing a vivid addition to salads and crudité platters. But it is equally good cooked - sautéing or roasting deepens and sweetens the taste, pairing nicely with fish and meats such as pork. (It is fennel seeds that provide the distinctive flavor in many sausages).
Fennel is actually an herb, with feathery green leaves that look similar to dill. These are attached to large stalks that can be used as flavoring but not often eaten since they are hollow and stringy. It is the plump white bulbs at the bottom of these stems that are the choice parts of the plant.
As an herb with culinary and medicinal purposes, fennel has been considered holy by many civilizations – a gift from the gods. Fennel was one of nine sacred plants in the Anglo-Saxon culture, and was hung on doors, stuffed into keyholes and hung from the rafters on midsummer’s eve to ward off evil spirits in Britain. Various beliefs have also used fennel as a symbol of flattery, honor and bravery. For example, Roman soldiers and gladiators ate fennel seeds for courage. Sometimes called anise, fennel is actually a different flowering plant with a similar taste.
I first used fennel in a salad I found in one of Linda McCartney’s Cookbooks (recipe below). I fell in love with the taste and have been using it ever since. So when I saw this recipe for Pan Roast of Cod, Pears and Caramelized Fennel, I had to try it. It was excellent and very easy to make. The vegetables (and pears) softened yet retained some bite, and the buttery-melt-in-your-mouth cod was a perfect complement.
Pan Roast of Cod, Pears and Caramelized Fennel
20 minutes 1½ hours 8-10
Marinate fish: In a small bowl, combine , and . Rub marinade into . Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to cook.
Prepare vegetables: Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Remove stalks and outer layers from, and cut bulbs lengthwise into 8 parts each (reserve fronds for garnish). In a large ovenproof skillet or flameproof roasting pan, toss cut fennel with , , , , and . (Two skillets or pans can be used if necessary.) Place in oven and cook 25 minutes. Add , and to taste and (vegetable stock or water can be substituted) to skillet and continue to roast until vegetables are tender and deeply caramelized, 20-30 minutes more. Remove from oven and cover loosely with foil.
Increase oven temperature to highest setting. Place a baking sheet in oven for 5 minutes. Place cod fillets on hot baking sheet and cook until juices from fish turn from clear to opaque, 10-20 minutes depending on thickness of fillets. Remove from oven and transfer fillets to a large platter and keep warm. Remove foil and reheat vegetables in oven until very hot, about 5 minutes. To serve, place vegetables around fish and sprinkle with (optional). Garnish with .
Source: Fennel Recipes for Wintertime, Wall Street Journal Online
I think of this salad as a much more interesting version of cole slaw….
12 radishes, trimmed
3 bulbs fennel, trimmed
2 medium carrots, peeled
1 granny smith apple, cored
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ cup mayonnaise
Make four vertical cuts in each radish, crossing in the center. Soak in ice water until the “petals” open, 2-3 hours. Drain.
Cut the fennel bulbs lengthwise in half and cut out the hard core. Slice very finely. Cut the carrots into matchsticks. Dice the apple. Mix the lemon juice into the vegetables, and then toss with the mayonnaise. Pile into a salad bowl and garnish with the radishes.
Source: Linda's Kitchen by Linda McCartney
References: A Pinch of Herbs by Katy Holder and Gail Duff; Buying Produce by Jack Murdich
So much of our history can be learned through food!