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Fennel is a vegetable that consists of a fat bulb with long green stalks and leaves coming out of the top. Raw fennel has a crisp taste similar to celery crossed with anise, but roasted fennel has a more complex, nutty flavor. The roasted fennel can be made easily in the oven to be eaten alone or to be incorporated into a dip, a vegetable side dish, or a soup.
Preparation of roasted fennel begins with the separation of parts. The stalks can be trimmed off and discarded, but the leaves and seeds can be saved for spice purposes. Bulbs diced into bite-sized segments are easiest to spread out on a baking sheet for roasting. Additional flavor can be added to the fennel with a splash of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Fully-cooked roasted fennel will be soft to the touch and lightly browned. The fennel essentially caramelizes during the cooking process and this will produce a slightly sweet aroma. Bulb slices will remain tender after they’ve cooled, but it is best to use them while they’re still warm.
Roasted fennel can be eaten alone as a side dish or appetizer. Parmesan or other finely-grated cheese pairs well with the vegetable. Pesto spread lightly over the top of the slices will accentuate the nut flavors that are now present. Extra olive oil and balsamic vinegar can also be set out to add moisture to the bulbs.
The roasted fennel can be used as a component in a dip that could serve as an appetizer when paired with slices of crusty bread. A puree of beans, fennel, and spices such as garlic and rosemary can serve as the base for the dip. Lemon juice can add a hint of acid, while grated cheese adds to the creaminess.
Vegetable side dishes can be improved with the addition of roasted fennel. Carrots and leafy greens pair well with it, and herbs such as parsley or basil can also be included. The sauce, however, should be kept light, such as a quick toss of olive oil. The vegetables pair well with poultry and mild seafood dishes.
Creamy potato soup can gain added depth from the inclusion of roasted fennel. The potatoes and fennel can even be roasted at the same time to speed up the process and to limit clean-up. Those ingredients are then added to milk, broth, and seasonings in the blender, and combined until well-mixed, but still chunky.
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