Two ways to get into the mild liquorice flavour of fennel.


So Frond of Fennel

Fennel is one of those ingredients you see in the grocery store and easily skip over. It looks like a cross between an onion and celery – not terribly exciting if you think about it that way – but it’s surprisingly versatile with a mild licorice flavour that’s delicious year round and works well in any number of preparations. Sliced raw it has a crisp refreshing bite, perfect for salads or snacking on its own. Grilled or roasted, it does a 180 with a candy-sweet turn mellowing the licorice taste.

One of my favourite ways to use fennel is a classic summery combination tossed with oranges in a salad. Toronto was gripped with a mini heatwave last week and I made this recipe to make the most of our last days of summer – so refreshing!

But, what to do with the fronds? It seemed like such a waste to just toss them aside and I thought it could be interesting as a pesto to garnish baked or grilled fish. Most of the time fennel bulbs are sold with the feathery dark green fronds already removed but if you can find them intact, treat it like any fresh leafy herb for a subtle anise hint. A little unexpected and so tasty.

Fennel and Orange Salad

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 medium fennel bulb with fronds
  • 2 navel oranges, cut into segments
  • 1 tbsp fennel fronds, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of 1 orange
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Cut fennel fronds from the bulb and chop finely, set aside
  2. Slice fennel bulb in half lengthwise through the root, then cut each half into very thin slices. A mandoline would make easy work of this, albeit a bit dangerous (I’m prone to clumsy kitchen injuries) so I find a sharp chef’s knife is best
  3. Combine the fennel, orange segments, fennel fronds, parsley and the remaining ingredients in a bowl and toss together

Roasted Halibut with Fennel Pesto

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fennel fronds, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup fresh Italian parsley
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 x 6 oz halibut filets

Method

  1. Place all ingredients in a blender or small food processor. If you have a mortar and pestle and skipped arm day at the gym, that works too.
  2. Pulse until the mixture resembles wet sand. It should come together as a paste but not be too runny.
  3. Rub halibut lightly with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 350° F for 15 – 20 minutes.
  4. Spread 1 – 2 teaspoons on top of the cooked halibut and serve along with the orange fennel salad

 

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