Sunday, July 23, 2017

Appreciating Fennel

Years ago my sister won a scholarship to study in Florence. Being a good sister, I made the oh-so-difficult decision to visit her in springtime. One of my many fond memories of the trip was smelling anise when walking around. "Oh, that's the 'finocchio,' wild fennel," my sister said. I loved the scent, but neither my sister nor I developed any particular enthusiasm for fennel itself.

My indifference has basically continued to this day. When I see the fronds from afar, I think "Dill!" and get disappointed when I see my mistake. This is not to say I never eat fennel. Once in a while, especially when I see a nice bunch in the Union Square Greenmarket, I'll buy some and eat it raw, thinly sliced with a generous sprinkle of salt.

But this member of the carrot family fennel does have many enthusiasts -- like my friend Hiroko. I'll let her take it over from here.

I like to use the whole fennel, including the fronds - they have a nice green color - in salads, but sometimes markets in the US sell them with the fronds removed. I guess they are too bulky and take too much space on the store shelf. So it was a nice surprise when I found a fennel with whole fronds attached in a Tokyo supermarket.

It was so gloriously tall and bushy - look how it was compared to
a 5ft tall kid!

In the summer, I like to eat fennel raw in a salad. It's super easy to prepare! Just remove the tough core and outer part, then slice the fennel think with a mandoline. 

I like fennel with orange (quite refreshing) - it tastes like celery with a bit of anise flavor, so it goes well with the sweetness of orange.

Or with thinly sliced zucchini and a mustard vinaigrette.

When we're in Switzerland [Hiroko's husband is Swiss], we often eat fennel with roast meat. [Editor's note: Avert your eyes! This is a vegetarian blog.] 

On my recent trip to Munich, I obviously enjoyed the city too much, with copious amount of sausage and beer, so I was eating roasted fennel for breakfast and drank fennel tea. They help digestion.

It really worked (so I went out to eat more) !

Now who couldn't appreciate that?