Janine Gilbertson's Granite Kitchen: Dispatching assumptions and exploring great ways to use fennel

By JANINE GILBERTSON January 23. 2018 9:40PM

A fennel bulb is strange looking, one of those things you may look at and say, “What the heck is that?” when you encounter it in the store piled up next to the broccoli crowns. (ISTOCK/CLAUDIO VENTRELLA)

I finally took some time this weekend and tried cooking with an ingredient I’ve been eyeballing for the longest time in the produce section: fennel — not the seeds, but the bulb.

A fennel bulb is strange looking, one of those things you may look at and say, “What the heck is that?” when you encounter it in the store piled up next to the broccoli crowns.

The bulb has green stalks and a texture similar to celery, with a white base, and usually has thin wisps of feathery, dark green leaves jutting off from the stalks.

Fennel is part of the carrot family and is indigenous to the shores of the Mediterranean. It’s now found in many parts of the world and is used in many types of cuisine. It’s also a primary ingredient in absinthe, a very strong alcoholic spirit historically popular among artsy types like Ernest Hemingway, Edgar Allan Poe and Pablo Picasso.

I had a preconceived notion about the fennel bulb. I thought it would have a strong licorice taste (nope) or that it would taste as though you bit into a million fennel seeds (very common in Italian sausage), but that’s not the case either.

Thinly sliced, the crisp texture of fennel bulb is excellent in a shaved salad, especially when you add a little thinly sliced Asiago or Parmesan cheese. Another great way to enjoy fennel bulb is oven roasted in a little olive oil and sea salt; it pairs well with Brussels sprouts.

Fennel can also be enjoyed in a sautée. I cut some up and sautéed it with some green peppers, garlic and sweet apple chicken sausage. Once things browned up a bit, I added a can of petite diced tomatoes and let things simmer for a few, then served it over Israeli couscous. (One tip when using canned tomatoes is to look for organic canned tomatoes; you would be surprised in the difference in the amount of sodium.)

The flavor of the sautéed fennel was so mild, I think my family just thought it was sliced onion and moved on eating dinner.

That’s fine with me; after dinner I left out a plate of cookies made with half the butter swapped out for avocado, and no one seemed to notice that either — but that is next week’s recipe, so stay tuned.
Sausage, fennel and couscous. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Sausage, Fennel and Couscous 

2 cups fennel bulb, thinly sliced

12 oz package sweet apple chicken sausage, sliced

2 cups Israeli couscous, cooked

1 green pepper, sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

14.5 oz can diced tomatoes

Shaved Asiago or Parmesan cheese, if desired, for garnish

Add the olive oil to a sauté pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil is heated, add the garlic, fennel bulb and green pepper. Sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, until the vegetables have softened.

Add the sausage and cook, stirring frequently, until the sausage slices have started to brown.

Add the tomatoes. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for about 10 minutes, then remove from heat. 

Spoon over the prepared couscous and garnish with shaved cheese, if desired, before serving.
Fennel pomegranate salad. (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Fennel Pomegranate Salad 

1 cup fennel bulb, thinly sliced

1/2 cup radicchio, thinly sliced

1/2 cup celery, thinly sliced

1 small endive

1 small zucchini, thinly sliced

2 tbsp pomegranate seeds

2 tbsp Asiago cheese, shaved

1/4 cup radishes, sliced

1 tbsp avocado oil

1/2 tsp Kosher salt

1/4 tsp free ground black pepper

Add the vegetables to a large bowl, drizzle with avocado oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and pepper, then top with pomegranate seeds and shaved cheese before serving. 
Oven Roasted Fennel and Brussels Sprouts (JANINE GILBERTSON)

Oven Roasted Fennel and Brussels Sprouts

1 lb Brussels sprouts, halved

2 cups fennel bulb, thinly sliced

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp Kosher salt

Preheat oven to 425. 

Add the Brussels sprouts, fennel bulb, olive oil and salt to a large bowl and toss to combine. Spread the veggies in a thin layer on a baking sheet sprayed lightly with cooking spray. 

Rast for about 10 minutes, then remove from oven and flip the veggies with a spatula. Return to oven and roast for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables have started to turn a deep brown. 

Remove from oven and serve.


Follow us on Twitter Follow us on Facebook Follow our RSS feed
Union Leader app for Apple iPad or Android *
Click to download from Apple Apps StoreClick to download from Android Marketplace
* e-Edition subscription required