Sunday, March 10, 2002

Serve it this week: Fennel




By Chuck Martin, cmartin@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        History: The most common fennel sold in the United States is Florence fennel, which has been grown in Italy since the 17th century. An American consul in Florence, Italy, sent fennel seeds to Thomas Jefferson in 1824, but the mildly anise-flavored stalk vegetable did not become popular (and widely available) until the last decade.

        FYI: Florence fennel is also called ""finocchio'' and “bulbing fennel” and sometimes mislabelled in the produce section as “anise.” Fennel seed is from “common fennel,” another plant variety that is bulbless.

        Buy: Look for clean, crisp bulbs with no sign of browning. Any attached greenery should be a fresh green color.

        Store: Refrigerate, tightly wrapped in plastic bag, up to five days.

        Prepare: Cut off greens, wrap and refrigerate. Trim stalks and tough outer layers. After cutting, cover fennel in cold lemon water to prevent discoloration. Serve raw in salads or as crudites with dip. Braise, bake, stew or stir-fry.

        Professional treatment: Chefs like to pair raw, fresh fennel with fish. At Maisonette, Bertrand Bouquin makes a salad with Maine lobster, persimmon, endive, shaved fennel and hazelnut dressing. At Carlo and Johnny, Jimmy Gibson perches seared tuna on top of crisp green beans and crunchy raw fennel, with a sweet-sour balsamic sauce. Kristy Schalck at Tousey House in Burlington uses a raw fennel slaw with sea bass and sweet potato fries. Vik Silberberg at the Celestial braises fennel and serves it as part of a dish with Chilean sea bass, asparagus and carrots in a vanilla-scented cream sauce.
       

— Dining writer Polly Campbell contributed
       

Fennel, Orange and Green Olive Salad with Lemony Dressing

        16 green olives
       1 or 2 lemons
       About 1 tablespoon Ricard, Pernod (anise liqueur) or orange juice
        1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
        1/4 teaspoon white pepper
       2 tablespoons full-flavored olive oil
        1/3 cup finely diced red onion
       2 medium fennel bulbs with tops (about 1 1/2 pounds)
       2 medium-large navel oranges

        Pit and thinly slice olives. Scrub 1 lemon and grate 1/4 teaspoon zest. Squeeze lemon(s) to yield 3 tablespoons juice. Blend juice, zest, Ricard, salt and pepper. Add oil and whisk to emulsify. Combine dressing with onion and olives.

        Cut off fennel tops and mince for seasoning. Cut off stalks (discard or reserve for another use). Quarter fennel bulbs lengthwise. Remove any heavy fibrous layers and trim tough part of core. Thinly slice crosswise using knife, food processor or vegetable slicer. Toss slices with minced tops and arrange on plates.

        Cut peel and pith from oranges. Slice into very thin rounds, then quarter to form wedges. Arrange around fennel on plates. Spoon dressing over all, dividing onions and olives evenly. Makes 4 servings.
       

— Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini (Morrow; $60)

       



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- Serve it this week: Fennel
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