Oh. My. God. I got a whole fennel in my CSA box last week, fronds and all! Should I use the whole thing? What do I do with the fronds? Will my family eat it?
For the record, I love fennel. I quite enjoy its anise flavor, even though I've only recently become a fan of black licorice. And, even though I started this post with such drama, that's not exactly how I felt when I got my whole fennel. I know what to do with the bulb, no problem. I even had an idea what to do with the fronds. The questions was if my family would care for it.
For the bulb, I sliced it very thinly & tossed it into a salad. My husband didn't even seem to notice them. Then, the fronds...My dad was the one to introduce me to fennel. He would see it growing wild on the side of the road in Southern California, and threaten to pull over and harvest some. One day, he did. Boy, was he a happy man. He joyfully brought those precious (to him) fronds home and would wax poetic about how he's going to cook this up for us and it's going to be the best thing we've ever tasted.
Indeed, it was delicious, but I was a kid. Even for a kid whole loved vegetables, I wasn't blown away by this thing. I just thought, "Okay, I tried it, it's good. May I have some french fries now?"
Much later in life, in culinary school maybe, I was reintroduced to fennel. But, I never made the connection of fennel being the green, feathery looking (vegetable?) thing my dad loves because it was just the bulb. Eventually, I figured it out, and since then, I've been wanting to cook the fronds the way Dad does.
Friday afternoon, I called home to ask my dad about it. My mom answered the phone and seemed pleasantly surprised to hear me say, "I was wondering if you or Dad could tell me how you cook your fennel."
Here's what you do:
1. Wash, then pick the fronds off the main stem.
2. Heat a little oil in a pot, add sliced ginger & saute for about 1 minute.
3. Add water (what you think would be enough to just cover the fronds) & bring to a boil.
4. Add the fronds and allow, slightly reduce heat, and allow to simmer until tender.
5. Check for tenderness, ajust seasoning, and finish with a splash of cooking wine.
The result? Not quite like Dad's, but my 19 month old son quite enjoyed it, and the broth was so tasty. My husband couldn't quite get the hang of it, but he did enjoy the broth as well.