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FLORENCE FENNEL

By: Marietta
Pangan-Dutkoski

dutkoski@shaw.ca

Fennel is widely cultivated  in Europe, East Asia and Middle East. I must admit that the first time I used fennel as an ingredient, I was more curious than excited to give this aromatic vegetable a chance mainly  because of the odd shape  of the stem that swells to a “bulb” as it grows. But  Florence Fennel gave me a very pleasant aromatic and
flavourful surprise.

In this issue of The Main Ingredient, Florence Fennel or
finocchio  is going to be our selection. The word fennel developed from the Middle English fenel or fenyl, while the Latin word for the plant was ferula.  Florence Fennel is the one with swollen, bulb-like stem base and  is commonly  used as a vegetable, similar to celery and can be used raw or cooked.The green seeds and leaves are delicately flavoured and similar in shape to dill. The bulb is a crisp, hardy root vegetable and may be sauteed, stewed, braised, grilled, or eaten raw. It contains the aromatic properties similar to that of anise star seeds.

Many cultures in the Indian sub-
contenet and the Middle East use fennel seed in their cookery. Fennel seed is also a common ingredient in Italian sausages and meatballs and in Northern European rye breads. Fennel features prominently in Mediterranean cuisine, where bulbs and fronds are used, both raw and cooked, in side dishes, salads, pastas and vegetable dishes. It is also an essential ingredient in Chinese five spice powders.  Many eggs, fish  and other dishes employ fresh or dried fennel leaves. Florence Fennel is a key ingredient in some Italian and German salads often tossed with chocory and avocado, or it can be braised and served as a warm side dish. It may be blanched ormarinated, or cooked in risotto.

The bulb, foliage, and seeds of the fennel plant are widely used in many of the culinary traditions of the world but is very foreign to many cooks and foodies  of South East Asia and in particular, Philippine Cuisines. This is the very reason why I thought  it perfect timing to give this wonderful  vegetable a good and perfect first impression to  Filipino palates.

Fennel has other medicinal  properties. For instance,  you can concoct a tea to relieve upset stomachs and reduce bloating.  In the Indian sub continent, fennel seeds are eaten raw in the belief that it will improve eyesight.  It is also believed to be diuretic and  can reduce hypertension. Lastly, fennel is also effective in driving away bugs such as fleas.

Tastebuds

Fennel Tea

Ingredients:

1 cup pure water

2 tsp fennel seeds

1 tiny pinch of nutmeg

1 pinch of cinnamon

1/4 tsp honey

Fresh mint leaves for garnish (optional)

Procedure:

1. In a small saucepan, bring the water to a simmer.
Add the fennel seeds, nutmeg, cinnamon and honey.
boil gently for 2 minutes.
Turn off heat, cover and steep for 4-5 minutes.
Strain into a cup and garnish with mint leaves.
Enjoy while warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 2 Servings

Fennel Coleslaw Salad

Ingredients:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 shallot, minced

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 tsp grated lemon zest

1 large fresh fennel bulb, trimmed, halved, very thinly sliced

1/2 cup Fuji apple, cut into matchstick-size strips

1 /2 cup pear, cut into matchstick-size strips

2 mandarin oranges, peeled, segments cut crosswise

Procedure:
In a small bowl, whisk first 4 ingredients. Season dressing with salt and pepper.
Combine fennel, pear and apple in medium bowl
Mix  slaw in 3 tablespoons dressing.
Toss, adding more dressing to taste.
Divide salad among 6 plates.
Garnish each with 1 mandarin orange slice

Yield: 6 servings

Chicken with  Caramelized Fennel  and Onion

Ingredients:

2 medium fennel bulbs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tbs. unsalted butter

2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup canned chicken broth

4 chicken breast

1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes or 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil

1 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest

Procedure:
1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
Season chicken with salt and pepper and and roast chicken 10 minutes. Set Aside
Drain tomatoes from oil.  Transfer to a small bowl and add hot water; let stand until plumped, about 10 minutes, then drain. Chop tomatoes  coarsely.
Trim fennel; slice bulbs lengthwise into 1/2-in. slices and season with salt and pepper to taste. Heat 1 tbs. butter and 1 tbs. olive oil in large skillet over medium heat until hot; add fennel and garlic. In another baking dish, pour broth, garlic, tomatoes, lemon zest,  fennel. Add chicken on top and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake  at 350 for 25 minutes.
Remove foil and bake  chicken for  5 minutes.
Place 1 piece of chicken on top of fennel on each plate. Add drippings from chicken platter to sauce and spoon sauce over chicken and fennel.

Yield: 4 Servings

Fennel Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 large eggs

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons fennel seeds, crushed

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

sugar for sprinkle

Procedure:
Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add 1 cup sugar, beating until light and fluffy.
Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to butter mixture, beating just until blended. Stir in fennel seeds and vanilla.
Divide dough into 2 portions; roll each portion on wax paper into a 12″ log. Freeze 2 hours or until firm.
Cut each log into about 1/4″ thick slices, using a sharp knife; place slices on ungreased baking sheets.
Sprinkle cookies with desired sugar. Bake at 350° for 10 to 11 minutes or until edges are barely golden.
Cool 1 minute on pans; remove to wire racks to cool.

Yield: 2 dozens

*** THE MAIN INGREDIENT segment aims to inform, educate, share skills and knowledge. It also hopes to satisfy most of our TASTEBUDS (the five elements of taste perception: salty, sour, bitter, sweet, and umami or savoury). Email your request INGREDIENT(s) be  featured for its uses, nutrient contents and/or cooking tips, and comments/suggestions. ***The author has had 13 years of experience in the field of Food and Nutrition, Research, Community/Public Health and Food Services combined. Earned the Degree in Nutrition & Dietetics (Philippines.) and Food and Nutrition Technology Program (Canada).  Information presented in this segment is  based on  nutritional books, online  searches and personal knowledge of the author.  Furthermore, all recipes featured in this segment are personally developed and/or original creations of the author, and are intended solely for personal use of the end users. This article and contents are copyrights and patent pending and therefore, no portion/ parts or whole  can be re-produced for any other use other than stated above without the author’s expressed permission. Mbpd









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