Is fennel the new cilantro?
We all know that fennel has a strong licorice flavor (black licorice, not Twizzlers) and the aroma is quite intense. When I was a kid, Sunday dinners at my Grandmother’s was not complete without a plate of raw sliced fennel in between courses. I couldn’t stand it. The fragrant memory has stayed with me for a lifetime and if you dare open a bottle of Sambuca in my presence, I’ll melt.
But here’s the thing: you don’t have to eat fennel raw with nothing on it. In fact, I think it’s great thinly sliced and marinated in some kind of zesty vinaigrette (see this recipe). Or how about grilled? The latter preparation makes fennel charred, smoky and slightly sweet.
Shall I attempt to convince you?
This is baby fennel.
And those long, hairy stalks that look like celery are extremely tough to eat. I’m sure there’s a way to cook them properly, but I haven’t had any luck.
I’ll pluck the hairs (technical term: fronds) and sprinkle them on top of whatever I’m making. They taste nice. And look like dill.
The stalks are wrapped in plastic wrap, foiled and frozen. I use them to flavor chicken stock when I remember…
To prepare the fennel for the grill, slice them in half lengthwise keeping the root end intact. This way they won’t fall into the grates.
Coat in olive oil, salt and pepper.
Grill on medium-high for about 6-8 minutes.
Quick tip: if you grill fast and furious, the fennel will burn on the outside and remain raw and crunchy in the middle.
To complete the salad, you will need short grain brown rice. I had a pile leftover from one of my cookbook recipes. Which by the way, I finished my manuscript! Over 35,000 words! I plan on posting an update here to fill you in on all of the details- it’s been crazy these past 2 weeks. But I’m excited to be finished (for now) and can’t wait to share this book with you next year.
To serve, the leftover rice was briefly warmed in a non-stick pan with olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and scallions. I chopped up the grilled fennel and tossed it in.
Mix. Mix. Mix.
Decorate with hairy fronds.
I ate this for lunch and was perfectly content. It’s a great combination of textures and flavors, and citrusy lemon is the perfect compliment to sweet, grilled fennel. This would make a great side dish to enjoy with salmon or chicken with a handful of greens…
So what’s the verdict? Do you like fennel? Would you try it grilled?Print
- 3/4 cup short grain brown rice, dry
- 4 baby fennel
- coarse salt & freshly ground black pepper
- 1–2 tbsp olive oil
- zest & juice of 1 lemon
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced (white & light green part)
- To begin, bring a small pot of water to a boil. Add the rice and cook according to the package instructions. When finished, spread the rice out onto a plate to cool. Drizzle with olive oil to prevent sticking.
- Preheat your outdoor grill to medium- high heat.
- For the fennel, remove the long green stalks from each bulb. (If you’d like to save the stalks for stock or another recipe, wrap in plastic wrap, foil and freeze, up to 3 months). Pluck about 1/4 cup of the leafy green fronds and set aside in a bowl. You will use them to decorate your salad.
- Slice the fennel bulbs in half lengthwise keeping the root end intact. This way, the fennel will not fall through the grates. Add to a small bowl and drizzle with olive oil to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
- Grill the fennel (lid closed) for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Be sure to check on them from time to time to make sure that they do not burn. You’ll know the fennel is ready when they are no longer stiff and are fork tender. Depending on size, your cooking time may vary. Transfer to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, roughly chop the fennel into bite-sized pieces.
- To assemble the salad, add the brown rice to a large bowl and toss in the chopped fennel. Drizzle with olive oil, adding more as needed. Grate in the lemon zest. For the lemon juice, start with 1/2 lemon. Season with salt and pepper and give it a taste. Add the other 1/2 lemon if you’d like. Add the scallions and toss well to combine.
- To serve, sprinkle with your reserved fennel fronds. Enjoy at room temperature.