Boulder County Farmers Markets
Did licorice rip off fennel? Fennel is the most delightful of anise-flavored natural foods, and from its bulb to its fronds, it’s useful in so many ways. It tastes like licorice, and people (even chefs) say it’s licorice-flavored, but we all know it was here first.
One popular use is to slice it thin and raw and serve it in salads or in a slaw. One of our market staffers has a friend who lives in Italy who slices fennel and sautees it in a lot of olive oil until it’s brown. She then tosses it with pasta, salt and pepper and fresh local cheeses and garnishes it with local olives. She tops it with its fronds. It’s a surprisingly flavorful one-dish meal.
The bulb is the treasure, but the fronds are the bonus. Decorate any fennel pasta, frittata, salad or slaw you make with some of the fresh and beautiful green fronds. You’ll likely have too many, so here’s a tip: Tie the remaining fronds in some string or twine and hang them upside-down in a dry place in your home or pantry. Once they are completely dry, grind them in a spice grinder or small food processor to make your own local fennel “pollen.”
Once jarred, dried fennel pollen makes a year-round addition to salad dressings, marinades or as a touch of anise flavor to your soups and roasted vegetables. In our experience, they retain their bright green color the same way dill does. So fennel pollen is a welcome pantry treat.
Here, we are happy to share a hearty vegetarian (not vegan) main-dish meal that makes fennel shine. You’ll taste it in every bite. Who is excited about seeing people again? Yes, us too! You can make this hours in advance, and then bake it at your host’s home when you arrive. Picnic season? Yes, please. Bake it in advance and serve it at room temperature when you get to your spot. Save a square for yourself, it will go fast.
If you are headed to the markets, don’t forget July Fourth is right around the corner. Remember to pick up delicious foods for your grill or your picnic. Fennel certainly fits the bill. So do pasture-raised ribs if you eat meat, or a large variety of produce if you do not. Consider one of our fresh-baked artisan breads with a local cheese and tomatoes and use that as your starter or even as your meal.
Fennel al Forno
- 3 medium fennel bulbs, green fronds reserved
- Salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more to oil the baking pan
- 3 garlic cloves (optional)
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh, local rosemary
- 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced or shredded
- 1/4 cup coarse panko or homemade breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- 2 tablespoons fennel fronds reserved from the fennel bulbs
- Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cut the fennel crosswise into half-inch-thick slices — remove any parts that feel tough or are too browned from harvesting. Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Boil the fennel for 1 minute, then put it in a bowl of cold water and drain. Season with salt and pepper. Lightly oil an ovenproof baking dish. Layer in the fennel.
- In a small bowl, stir together 3 tablespoons olive oil, the garlic (optional), smashed to a paste with a little salt, the pepper flakes and the chopped rosemary.
- Drizzle 2 tablespoons of this mixture over the fennel. Sprinkle with rosemary leaves. Cover with a layer of sliced or shredded mozzarella, then sprinkle with panko or breadcrumbs. Drizzle the remaining oil mixture, then sprinkle with Parmesan. (The dish may be prepared to this point several hours before baking.)
- Bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, until nicely browned. Garnish with fennel fronds.
If you make this recipe show us your photos! We’re on Instagram at @BCFM.
At the market this week
Artisan baked bread, including baguette and giant boules. So many locally crafted cheeses and mushrooms in several varieties. We also have pierogies in several flavors, farm-fresh eggs, tamales, pasta, spinach, potatoes, kombucha, beets, carrots, local honey, granola, vegan ice cream and several varieties of meats including salami. Tomatoes, turnips and tender greens. All kinds of kale. Fruit plant starts, chard, flowers. Walkups are warmly welcome. No reservations required, but you can make Wednesday evening reservations at bcfm.org/boulder-wednesday/. In-person markets are open in Longmont, Boulder and Denver every Saturday. No reservations required, but they can be made at bcfm.org/boulder-saturday/ for Boulder and bcfm.org/longmont-saturday/ for Longmont. Curbside available in Boulder, Longmont, Lafayette and Denver. Shop online at bcfm.org.