Native to the Mediterranean region, fennel is one of Italy's most popular vegetables. Most fennel available in American markets is Florence fennel (sometimes labeled "fresh anise")—has a bulb-like base, stalks like celery, and feathery leaves that resemble Queen Anne's lace.

Like celery, the entire fennel plant is edible and lends itself to a wide variety of cooking applications. In fact, this mildly licorice-flavored plant is a member of the parsley family. Lastly, we can't ignore the health benefits of fennel. Just one cup of fennel contains almost 20 percent of your recommended daily value of vitamin C. You'll also find plenty of iron, fiber, and potassium.

Recipes

Basic Grilled Fennel

Ken does not like licorice, so I thought I'd be eating all the fennel myself. That is until we tried it grilled. The grill really mellowed out the flavor and made it much more delicate. It was a delicious side dish that we both adored. I think we ate almost all of the fennel from the whole season this way. The recipe below is from "The Vegetarian Grill" by Andrea Chesman, a great book with simple grilled vegetables, like this recipe, as well as lots of great dishes incorporating various grilled vegetables and delicious marinades.- Liz

  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and black pepper

Prepare a medium-hot fire in the grilled with a lightly oiled vegetable grill rack in place

Cut off and discard the fennel stalks, including the feathery leaves (set aside some for a garnish, if desired). Remove any wilted outer stalks. Cut off the base. Wash well, then slice about 1/4 inch think. Transfer to a medium-size bowl, sprinkle with the oil, and toss to coat.

Grill the fennel, turning occasionally, until quite tenter and grill-marked, 10 to 12 minutes.

Place the fennel in a serving bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper. Garnish wit hthe reserved fennel leaves, if desired, and serve hot.


Pasta with Golden Fennel

The carmelized fennel is delicious in this pasta dish. This recipe is from Local Flavor by Deborah Madison.

  • 2 or 3 large fennel bulbs, including the greens
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter (I used extra olive oil)
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper
  • grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic glove minced
  • 3/4 to 1 pound fettuccine
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano or Dry Monterey Jack cheese

Set aside the fennel greens. Quarter the bulbs and thinly slice. Heat a large pot of water for the pasta.

Melt 1 Tablespoon of the butter with the olive oil in a wide skillet. Add the fennel and saute over high heat, stirring occassionally, until browned in places, 7 to 10 minutes. Season with 1 teaspoon of salt. Toss with the lemon juice, then add 1 cup of water. Reduce the heat and cook, covered, until the liquid has evaporated. Add another 1/2 cup of water and continue cooking in this fashion until the fennel is very soft and deep gold in color, about 25 minutes in all. Season with pepper.

Chop a handful of fennel greens (about 1/3 cup) with the garlic and lemon zest and set aside.

Add salt and the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente. Scoop it out and add it to the pan with the fennel and chopped greens. Taste for salt and season with pepper. Serve with the cheese, finely grated or thinly shaved over the top.