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Flattering with Fennel

Now, there's no reason for you to avoid foods like fennel just because you're not very familiar with how to use it. We'll show you the quick and easy way to use fresh fennel when it's at the peak of the season to add flavor that will win you and your meals flattery.

Fennel isn't used very often these days, even though back in medieval times it was the plant whose name meant "flattery". Some people believe it earned that name because monks in the Middle Ages cooked with fennel, and it won their dishes great flattery. It also became popular with vintners, who discovered that their wines tasted better when people ate fennel while drinking them.

Today, fennel can be found in two forms. There are dried fennel seeds, which can be found in the spice section of most markets. And there are also fresh fennel bulbs.

Right now, during the peak of the season, you can use fresh fennel to add flattery to your meals. Fennel is also known as anise, and has a mild licorice flavor that makes it wonderful with fish and in soup. So, if you want to discover the cooking secrets of medieval monks and winemakers, now is the time to use this week's fennel recipe.

In medieval times, fennel was used as both an aromatic seasoning and as a medicine. Fennel is a member of the parsley family. Fennel seeds have also been used in Mediterranean cuisine as a digestive aid.

Fennel bulbs are light green with feathery, leafy tops. When selecting fresh fennel, look for bulbs that are smooth and firm with a vibrant green color.

Store fresh fennel in the refrigerator in a perforated plastic bag. Do not wash fresh fennel until you are ready to use it. Then rinse it well with cold water. Fresh fennel can last for up to 8 days when properly stored and refrigerated. Remember that when the bulbs become slimy to the touch, they are too old to use.

Cooking Tips

When cooking with fresh fennel, cut off the tough stem at the base of the bulb before slicing or chopping. Most recipes for fresh fennel use the bulb for cooking and not the feathery, leafy tops. When you cut off the tops, save them as a lovely garnish. You can chop them up and sprinkle over soup, salads, or fish.

Raw fennel can have a crisp, slightly sharp flavor that becomes sweeter and milder when cooked.

One cooking tip is to use cooked fennel in place of celery. Fresh fennel provides a sweeter flavor than celery with a mild licorice taste.