27 April 2011

Potluck #2: Fennel with Green Beans

WTF. What the fennel?!

It's such a strange and random veggie, isn't it? When I first changed my diet a few months ago, I read somewhere that every time you go to the grocery store or market, you should buy at least one new vegetable that you've never cooked with, go home and look up a recipe for it. Although I haven't done this every time I've gone shopping, it's definitely helped me get over my fear of intimidating foods. I've tried and fallen in love with so many new flavors that I didn't know existed until recently: rainbow chard, jicama, bok choy, rutabega, daikon radish...fennel.

Fennel is actually pretty common in Europe, but it hasn't quite caught on in the States yet. Let's start a state-side revolution. The Fennel Revolution: Changing the world, one potluck at a time.

Sounds pretty exciting, huh. Ok, so maybe it's not the sexiest vegetable out there, but it does has a sweet and mysterious flavor. Anyone know what it is? It's subtle, so you might not be able to put your finger on it...

It's anethole! If you guessed it, I'm impressed. Most of us are more familiar with other fruits, roots and herbs that also have anethole in them like licorice, anise, stat anise. It's the distinctive flavor that you'll find in black licorice candy, some root beer, and various alcoholic drinks like absinthe, aguardiente and J├Ągermeister.

I love the taste of fennel, but I know it's not for everyone--it's not overpowering, though, so give it a shot even if you're not a black licorice fan. I especially like it roasted in the oven because the natural sweetness comes out so much. The salad in these pictures, however, calls for boiling and then sauteing the fennel. Combined with fresh green beans, italian parsley and sea salt, this is a winning sweet/salty salad. Bring this to your next potluck and all the guests will happily exclaim, "WTF!"

Here's how to make it:
Cut bulbs of fennel into chunks. Boil in water for 4 minutes with fresh green beans. Saute sweet yellow onion in oil or ghee (clarified butter) until the onion starts to become translucent. Add two cloves of pressed/chopped garlic. Drain fennel and green beans and run cold water over them so they don't cook anymore. Pat dry with a clean towel. Add fennel and green beans to the pan with onion and garlic, stir it all together so everything is covered with the oil/ghee. Saute for a few minutes, then transfer to a bowl and add chopped fresh parsley (I used flat leaf) and sea salt. Toss to mix.

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