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Fennel has a distinctive anise flavor which is an excellent addition to many dishes. The bulb remains juicy and firm, even when it is grilled. It can be served grilled, raw, braised, roasted, sauteed, or as a garnish, and all parts of the plant may be used.
The bulb, when raw, has a pronounced flavor that is a good compliment to citrus salads. Raw fennel, when finely chopped, can be added to coleslaw, potato salad, or green salads, to add flavor and texture. Salsa can benefit from chopped salsa, as can a watercress or spinach salad served with walnuts and oranges.
When grilling, large bulbs are easiest to work with. The outer layers of the bulb may need to be removed, and the stalks should be removed. Some of the greens, or leaves, should be saved for a garnish. The fennel bulb should be sliced, brushed with olive oil, and seasoned with a little bit of salt. It can then be grilled slowly over the coals.
The grilled bulbs can be served alone, with a dressing or a sauce — often mayonnaise or cream-based — or as a side dish for grilled fish. The stalks of can be dried and used as fuel when grilling fish, as it provides a nice aromatic smoke.
Fennel can be braised by cutting the bulb into quarters while still leaving the quarters attached. Butter should be melted in a frying pan, and chicken or vegetable stock added to the pan. The fennel is then added to the pan, seasoned with pepper and salt, and then braised until tender; about 20-25 minutes. This is a nice accompaniment to pork or fish, among other dishes.
Roasted fennel along with other vegetables is a popular Mediterranean dish. The fennel is sliced and blanched. Other vegetables are then chopped, such as eggplant, squash, peppers, and onions. The vegetables can be coated with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, pepper, and salt, and roasted in a 400° F (204° C). The vegetables are excellent when served with grilled polenta.
Chopped fennel can be added to soups. It will add some variety, but more then that, fennel contains antioxidants so it is also healthy.
For a quick meal, when time is of essence, add some fennel to a can of soup for a fast, satisfying meal.
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