Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Let's talk about Fennel

Fennel, also known as Anise, is a hardy, perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. It is generally considered indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean, but has become widely naturalized elsewhere.

It is highly aromatic and flavorful with culinary and medicinal uses. I have no idea what the medical uses are, I just read that in Wikipedia. I sounded so smart though, didn't I? I do know about the culinary uses though....it's great in soups and salads! You may remember it as a main ingredient in Italian Wedding Soup.

This is fennel. You get it in the produce section of the grocery store. You may be looking at this and wondering, "Now what?"

For starters, let's get rid of the waste. Below is all of the waste. Cut the stalk flush right where the green feathery stalks end and the white bulb begins. Also cut the brown end off. We don't use either of these ends.

After removing the waste, this is what you have left: the bulb. This is the part that we use when cooking. From here, I would take a knife and get rid of the brown areas on the sides. Just remove what is brown, don't peel away an entire layer like you may with an onion.

Then quarter to reveal the core. When I am making soups with fennel, I don't even remove the core. But for salads, I do. Don't ask me why. That's just what I do. I'm sure if I looked it up somewhere on FoodNetwork.com or something they would have an explanation, but for now, let's just go with remove core for salads, don't for soups, and call it good. Deal?

Ta da! That's it. From here, your recipe should tell you what to do, like slice, or chop, or put in the food processor. Get ready for your taste buds to jump up and down. Fennel is that good.

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