Simply Fresh by Julie Wern

Cooking Demonstration and Tasting this Saturday, 7/11 at 12 noon.  

Come learn ideas for using up all those zucchini, cucumbers, and fennel coming out of the fields.  I will be making a Cool, Creamy Cucumber Soup; tart, addictive Fennel Pickles; and a Zucchini “Noodle” Greek Salad.

Featured Item—Fennel

It seems fennel gets a bad rap.   Some think “licorice” taste and turn their noses, but did you know that fennel seeds are the key ingredient in much-beloved Italian sausage? Also the flavor of roasted or braised fennel is very subtle yet it adds a slightly sweet, delicious touch to a dish. If you have never tried fennel or don’t like it raw, do try it cooked before you turn it down completely.

Fennel is interesting because it is related to other vegetables and herbs that you wouldn’t necessarily put together—carrots, dill, celery and parsley—as part of the Umber group. The whole plant is edible, including its feathery leaves (called fronds), its stems, and its bulb.

Fennel is considered a highly nutritious food, high in important vitamins and minerals including folate, potassium, vitamin C and Manganese. It also contains good amounts of calcium, iron, and magnesium. Yet it is low in calories and relatively high in fiber. It even contains some protein. As if that was not enough, fennel contains significant anti-oxidant properties and thus can help prevent many chronic illnesses, including cancer and arthritis, as well as help reduce inflammation in the body.

Choose firm, white bulbs with no bruises or brown spots. Stalks and leaves should be bright green and crisp. To store, cut off bulb where the stems meet the base and place in plastic. They should last at least a week. Cover fronds and stems with moist paper towel and place in plastic. The delicate fronds will only last a couple of days.

There are many ways to enjoy fennel. Here are a few.

Fronds

Great used as an herb. It is terrific in salad dressings, especially citrus-based vinaigrettes or creamy ranch.

Fennel fronds also add a lot to cream cheese or sour cream dips and cream or mayonnaise-based sauces.  Try it in chicken salad.

They are wonderful baked on top of fish (see recipe below) or used in poaching broth for fish, seafood or chicken. Add it to your next batch of steamed mussels or clams!!

Fennel fronds make a unique and delicious pesto. See this recipe that was given to us by one of our CSA members last year (click here)

Here is a recipe for a healthful remoulade. Try it on crab cakes or fish, or even on a burger.

Yogurt Fennel Remoulade                                                      Makes 1 Cup

INGREDIENTS:

– 6 ounces whole milk or reduced fat Greek yogurt

– 1 tablespoon minced fennel frond

– 1 tablespoon capers, chopped

-1/2 teaspoon caper liquid

– 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

– 1 clove garlic

– 1/8 teaspoon salt

METHOD:

Place yogurt in a small bowl. Press garlic onto yogurt. Add fennel fronds, capers with liquid, mustard, and salt. Mix well. Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

 

Stems

Fennel stems can be used a lot like celery, although they can be a bit more fibrous. Stems from baby fennel will be a bit more tender than those from older plants. They are great added to chicken or seafood salads; vegetable soups; Italian sausage and tomato pasta sauce; pasta or grain salads; egg salad; tuna salad; or raw vegetables salads.

Try fennel stems in this refreshing shrimp salad. This version was inspired by a Gulf Shrimp Salad recipe from “The Summer House Cookbook” by Debra Ponzek and Geralyn Delaney Graham

Shrimp and Fennel Salad with Grapefruit and Avocado       Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

– 1 large grapefruit

– 1 teaspoon grapefruit zest

– 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

– 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

– 1 small shallot, minced

– 2 teaspoons honey

– 1 pound large shrimp, roughly chopped

– 1 ripe avocado, cubed

– 2/3 cup thinly sliced fennel stem

– 2 tablespoons minced fennel fronds , feathery leaves only

– 1 cup halved red grapes

– 1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds

– 4 cups salad greens of choice

METHOD:

Zest 1 teaspoon from grapefruit and place in a tall container wide enough to comfortably contain the handle of a hand blender (a tall used ricotta container works well). This container will be used for making the dressing. Using a sharp knife, cut around grapefruit to remove peel and white pith. Cutting over dressing container in order to catch juices, cut grapefruit between membranes to release sections of pulp. Cut grapefruit sections in half and place in a separate medium bowl. Set aside.

Squeeze resulting grapefruit membrane over dressing container to remove all juices. Discard membrane. Add lemon juice, olive oil, shallot and honey to grapefruit juice and zest. Using a hand blender, blend until smooth and emulsified. Salt and pepper to taste.

To the medium bowl containing the grapefruit, add the shrimp, avocado, fennel stem, grapes, and fennel fronds. Toss gently to mix. Add dressing to taste (you may not need to use all of it).

Place 1 cup greens on each plate and top with a serving of shrimp salad. Sprinkle with almonds and serve.

NOTES:

You can use fennel bulb instead of stems you prefer. Chop into small dice.

If you don’t have a hand blender, gradually whisk oil into dressing ingredients to emulsify.

 

Bulbs

Fennel bulbs are very versatile and can be prepared any way from raw to grilled. The stem end and core of the bulb can be tough so it is a good idea to remove them with a sharp knife before proceeding. Also remove any browned or damaged sections.

Raw fennel is wonderful sliced thin in many different cold salads, especially ones with the addition of citrus. One of my favorite ways to eat fennel bulb is thinly sliced and tossed with lemon juice, olive oil and shaved Parmesan.

A traditional method of cooking fennel is braising, in which fennel wedges are oven or stove simmered in broth and/or wine with herbs. Braised fennel is great with roasted or grilled meat and fish.

Fennel bulb can also be boiled or steamed for use in purees like soups, in mashed potatoes (see recipe below), or to make sauces.

Sauté fennel to add a special quality to stir fry, or add sautéed fennel to pasta sauces or egg dishes.

Grilled fennel is divine. It is helpful to slice it with the stem end attached to keep the pieces from falling apart on the grill. Also be sure to cover the pieces with enough oil to avoid drying it out.

Below are two fennel recipes using both fronds and bulbs.  One is a fennel topped salmon with fennel potato puree that makes for a very satisfying early summer meal.  The other is for fennel pickles, delicious on sandwiches and crostini, or simply eaten as a snack.

Fennel Frond Topped Salmon with Fennel Potato Puree     Serves 4

INGREDIENTS:

– 3 baby fennel bulbs with leaves, or one large

– 2 cloves garlic, chopped

– 4 cloves garlic, peeled and intact

– 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts or almonds

– 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil, or more to reach desired thickness

– 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

– 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or more to taste

– 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, optional

– 4 5 ounce salmon fillets

– 2 large russet potato , peeled and chopped into 1″ pieces

– 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

– scant 1/4 cup homemade or purchased vegetable broth

– salt and pepper to taste

METHOD:

  1. Preheat oven to 275℉. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil (do not grease).
  1. Place a steamer insert over a pot partially filled with water and place on medium-high heat. Chop fennel bulb into 1/2” pieces and place in steamer insert along with the 4 cloves of garlic. Cover and steam until fennel and garlic is very tender, about 10-15 minutes. Remove fennel to a blender. Add broth and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Blend until smooth. Set aside. Place chopped potatoes in steamer insert, cover, and steam until tender, about 10 minutes. Remove steamer insert from heat and allow steam to release from potatoes for a couple of minutes. Push potatoes through a potato ricer in to a bowl (or mash as you normally would). Fold fennel puree into riced potatoes. Taste and season as desired with salt and pepper. Add additional broth if potato mixture is too thick. Set aside. Can be reheated in microwave just before serving.
  1. In a mini food processor, place 1 packed cup fennel fronds, 2 cloves chopped garlic, pine nuts, 1/8 -cup extra virgin olive oil, kosher salt, lemon juice and Parmesan (if using). Blend until smooth. You want a thick, spreadable paste. If too thick, add more olive oil. Season to taste with salt, pepper, lemon juice and more Parmesan, if desired.
  1. Place salmon fillet portions on prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top each portion with several dollops of pesto and gently smooth over top of fish (you want it to be about 1/8 to 1/4” thick). You may not use all the pesto, so be careful not to contaminate your pesto with anything that touches the fish so you can use the remainder of the pesto for another purpose.
  1. Place fish in oven and cook for 20 minutes. Check temperature of fish. You want it to reach about 140-145℉. Continue baking, checking periodically, until it reaches temperature, which may take up to 10 minutes longer.
  1. Portion hot potato puree on each of 4 plates.  Remove fish from oven. Slide a long, thin spatula under each fish fillet to release it from its skin (because you didn’t grease the pan, the fish skin will stick to the foil, making it easy to separate the flesh from the skin). Place a salmon portion on each bed of potato. Serve immediately.

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This recipe is adapted from a similar one by chef Mario Batali in his Babbo Cookbook. The pickles were part of a larger crostini recipe that used the fennel pickles on toasted bread topped with homemade liver pate and kale. The combination is divine. However, the original recipe makes far more pickles than needed which allowed me to discover how great the pickles can be in other dishes such as sandwiches, salads, or as a snack.

 Fennel Pickles with Fennel Seed & Fennel Fronds       Makes 1 Qt Jar

INGREDIENTS:

– 1 1/2 cups white wine vinegar

-1 cup water

– 1 tablespoons sea salt

– 2 tablespoons sugar

– 1 tablespoon fennel seeds

– cloves garlic, flattened with side of knife

– 10 black peppercorns

– 3 sprigs fennel fronds, washed

– 2-3 medium fennel bulbs, Stem end cut. Cut lengthwise into thin pieces

METHOD:

  1. Stir all ingredients except fennel and fennel fronds in a medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar and salt dissolves. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to a simmer. Add fennel and cook for about 5 minutes or until crisp tender. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  1. Place fennel sprigs in quart jar. Place fennel in jar and then cover with pickling liquid. Allow to marinate for about 24 hours. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

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