Did you know that fennel is the Greek name for marathon? Not because eating fennel gives you stamina and endurance. Rather, the Greek beat the Persians in 490 B.C., in a fennel field that is exactly 26 miles and 385 yards from Athens. They sent a runner to bring the good news into town and ever since then, the length of a marathon race has remained the same as the distance between the fennel field and town. Luckily, you don’t have to go that far out of your way to get some fennel. Come and cook with us!
Fennel is often included in supplements as it has a rich mix of health-promoting compounds including anethole (responsible for the licorice flavor), limonene and quercetin (an anti-inflammatory flavonoid) all of which counteract spasms of smooth muscle in the gut, relieve gas and help with cramps. It also makes a nice tea by pouring boiling water over a couple of spoonfuls of the dried fruit, crushing it immediately before using. Steep for 10 minutes and strain.
Fennel is about as versatile as a vegetable can be. It’s great raw, cooked, roasted, and even pickled and many recipes use the fennel seeds, fronds and flowers to make the most of its extraordinary flavor. One can eat it raw but beware, as my college flat mate used to equal raw fennel salad to prison food as it was bleak and dire. Say it ain’t so as it is delicious in mixed with oranges and avocado, or baked with tomatoes, bread crumbs and parmigiano. Another nice use of the fennel seeds is to crush them and use them instead of breadcrumbs on your chicken, turkey, veal or pork scaloppine with fennel salsa verde. We recently tried this recipe from Bon Appetit and it was an absolute hit at my house.
Fennel is great in salads and a new and improved version to the above mentioned orange and avocado salad is this citrusy fennel, apple and olive salad from the recently published Citrus: Sweet and Savory Sun-Kissed Recipes cookbook. It’s crunchy, fresh and easy and gives me the feeling that summer is not over just yet. Get some fennel, make the salad and let us know what you think. Come and cook with us!