I'm going to say it. I think fennel is nifty. Just look at it:
The bulb and fronds (those green, whispy things on top which you can use like an herb) taste like licorice, it is crunchy, and it is elegant. See, what did I tell you: fennel is nifty.
Here's a shockingly quick way, courtesy of The Oliver (of course), to use fennel that really shows it off: crispy fennel salad. The licorice flavors come through with all their elegance, without overpowering you. And, with the heightening from the lemon and olive oil, the fennel just sings.
Did I mention it was quick and easy? Start by peeling the fennel bulb with a vegetable peeler, and be sure to reserve the fronds.
Dunk the shaved fennel into a bowl of ice water for 10 minutes. This is how the fennel gets 'crisp'.
Drain and dry the fennel.
Meanwhile, get out some sun dried tomatoes.
Chop them up.
Throw the fennel, sun dried tomatoes, and fennel fronds in a bowl. Toss with lemon juice, good olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Stir that together. And that's it!
While I served it over cod my father fished out of the waters in Alaska,
you could also serve it over poultry, pork, or greens, or along with avocado and segments of citrus (but, maybe omitting the sun dried tomatoes).
Crispy Fennel Salad (from The Oliver's Cook with Jamie)
2 fennel bulbs, fronds reserved
a small bunch of herbs, like marjoram or oregano*
juice of 1 lemon
extra virgin olice oil
8 sun-dried tomatoes (if in oil, drain and finely chop)
freshly ground black pepper
Using a speed peeler or a mandolin slicer, slice the fennel bulbs lengthways very, very finely and put in a bowl of iced water for 10 minutes or so until the slices go crispy.
Drain and dry the fennel and mix it in a bowl with the fennel fronds. Add the herbs. Dress the fennel salad with the lemon juice, some extra virgin olive oil, the sun-dried tomatoes, and salt and pepper to taste.
*Parsley or basil should work just as well.