Fennel is one of my favorite fall vegetables. It has a pronounced anise flavor, but don’t let that stop you from trying it. I know plenty of people who despise black licorice who love fennel. Once you give fennel a chance, you’ll realize that this aromatic vegetable lends itself well to a variety of fall dishes.
Fennel is high in vitamin C, and it’s also a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, magnesium, and copper. Fennel’s distinct anise flavor comes from anethole, a compound that that has been shown to suppress inflammation and cancer. (See best foods to prevent cancer here).
Like celery, fennel is great raw or cooked. It’s crunchy and sweet when raw. When cooked, it softens and mellows.
Look for fennel bulbs that are clean, white, and tightly packed. Avoid bulbs with cracks, browning, or damp spots.
Fennel loses its flavor as it ages, so be sure to buy it fresh from the farmers market.
To prep fennel for cooking, trim off the fronds and stalks and cut off the hard bottom of the bulb. To slice fennel, stand the bulb on the root end and cut vertically, or cut the bulb in half and slice lengthwise or crosswise. The tastiest part of the fennel bulb is the heart – I usually eat it on the spot before it can be incorporated into the recipe I’m cooking.
Here are my top 10 favorite vegan and vegetarian fennel recipes:
1. Fennel and Apple Salad with Lemon-Shallot Dressing (vegan) – This salad is a delicious way to introduce people to raw fennel. It was the first thing I made when we start harvesting fennel at the farm last week.
2. ‘Food & Wine’ Magazine’s Crunchy Baked Fennel (vegetarian) – I made this side dish last year for Thanksgiving dinner and it was a huge hit.
3. Shaved Fennel, Radish, and Grapefruit Salad (vegan) – Another wonderful raw salad for fall.
4. Rice with Fennel and Golden Raisins (vegan) – Fennel and raisins are a classic combination that’s showcased in this quick and easy Mediterranean side dish.
5. Artichoke and Fennel Caponata (vegan) – I first tried this sweet-and-sour Sicilian side dish at a Passover Seder. We spooned it onto matza, but it would be extra delicious over toasted baguette slices.
6. Fennel and Leek Gratin With Feta (vegetarian) – This gratin is super simple. It makes a great gluten-free side dish or main course.
7. Roasted Fennel (vegetarian) – I love how roasting caramelizes the natural sugars in fennel. I have a hard time saving any roasted fennel because it’s so delicious by itself, but it’s really good as a pizza topping or in pasta.
8. Fennel and Walnut Cranberry Sauce Recipe (vegan) – Another good one for Thanksgiving. Fennel’s licorice-like essence enhances the sweetness of cranberry sauce.
10. Couscous With Fennel, Chickpeas and Chard (vegan) – This spicy Tunisian stew is loaded with beans and vegetables.
Do you have a favorite fennel recipe? Share it as a comment!