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What’s in Season? Fennel


By Stefanie Cassetto

This week, we continue our search for foods that are in season for the fall. While it’s true that most foods are available year-round now, to get the full flavor and nutritional benefit of most produce, it must be eaten when in season. The fall offers a wide variety of foods and spices that are warming—carrot, sweet potato, onions, garlic, ginger, and peppercorns—just to name a few.

Fennel is a vegetable that belongs to the Umbellifereae family. It is closely related to more everyday spices and veggies like parsley, carrots, dill, and coriander. Low in calories and fat, this bulbing vegetable adds a hint of licorice flavor to your meal.

Fennel has a white bulb, stalks topped with feathery green leaves, and grows flowers that produce fennels seeds. The bulb, stalk, leaves, and seeds are all edible—making this one very versatile vegetable.

Fennel has many nutritional perks, making it among the 130 foods listed as the world’s healthiest found here. This means it is nutrient dense and has what you need to maintain the best health possible.

A great source of vitamin C, fennel helps to neutralize free radicals and boost the immune system. It is loaded with fiber, which can reduce cholesterol levels and prevent colon cancer. It helps to fight the risk of heart attack or stroke with beneficial amounts of folate, a B vitamin. And, because it is also a good source of potassium, it helps to lower high blood pressure.

Worried about your bones? Or blood? Or kidneys? Fennel is also packed with important minerals to keep those parts of your body in tip-top shape such as iron, phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium.

Fennel bulbs can be cooked or eaten fresh in salads. They are great for chopping, dicing, and adding great flavor to a meal. The stalks can be used for soups, stocks, and stews adding warmth and nutrients to autumn’s favorite dishes.  And don’t forget that the leaves can be used as an herb seasoning. Every part of fennel can play an important part in a healthy lifestyle.

Online References
http://cuesa.org/food/fennel
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=23
http://www.livestrong.com/article/119384-benefit-fennel/
http://www.livestrong.com/article/525545-nutritional-breakdown-of-fennel/

Recipe courtesy of glutenfreegirl.com



Braised Fennel

Braising is not just for meats. The low heat and slow simmer method turns crunchy vegetables into something more pliable and yielding.

Ingredients

  • 2 large fennel bulbs
  • 4 tablespoons grapeseed oil
  • Kosher salt and cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups stock (chicken or vegetable)
  • 5 to 6 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds

Preparing the fennel. Cut the stalks from the fennel bulb and discard them. Chop some of the fennel fronds fine and set aside about 2 teaspoons of it. (Discard the rest or save it for a later salad.) Cut the remaining root from the bottom of the fennel. Quarter the bulbs.
Preheat the oven to 350°. Pull out a 9 x 12 baking dish.

Browning the fennel. Set a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil. Put half the fennel bulb quarters into the hot oil. Brown the bottom of the fennel, about 2 to 3 minutes. Brown all sides of the fennel the same way. Put the browned fennel into the baking dish. Repeat with the rest of the fennel.

Preparing to braise. Season the browned fennel with salt and pepper. How much is up to you and your taste, but we use a healthy pinch of each here. Pour the stock into the baking dish. You will not have enough stock to cover the fennel bulbs. It will come only partway up the bulbs. Sprinkle the thyme and fennel seeds over the top of the fennel.

Cover the baking dish with aluminum foil. Slide the dish into the oven and cook the fennel until it has a bit of bite remaining but a knife goes easily through it, about 30 minutes.

Plate up the braised fennel and sprinkle it with the chopped fennel fronds.

Feeds 4.