I confess, I’m a fennel fiend.
Every time I get my hands on a bulb, I can’t wait to use the entire thing in a recipe. So when I came home from my member shift at the co-op a few weeks ago with this lovely (if slightly blemished) organic fennel that no one else wanted, it was time to come up with something new.
Simple Fennel Saute turned out to be one of those recipes where I assessed what I had on hand and discovered it was time for another “stuff in the fridge saute.” (I’m also rather a fiend for those. They’re great for using up veggies that are about to go off or for throwing together dinner when you have absolutely no idea what to make.)
It is a truly simple combination of some of the best veggies that summer has to offer: zucchini, summer squash, carrots and, of course, fennel. I also included parsnips since I nearly always have them hanging around, but if you can’t find good local ones, feel free to substitute cooked new or fingerling potatoes. Fresh heirloom tomatoes would also be lovely in place of canned.
To make this a meal, I added some chickpeas and served it over a mix of cooked bulgur and kasha. Feel free to try your favorite beans and grains: cooked lentils and barley, white beans and rice, anything with quinoa…it’s all good.
The only “seasoning” in this dish is the onions and garlic that get sauteed at the very beginning. I didn’t even use any pepper, and I’m the kind of person who peppers everything to death. Using the whole fennel bulb, including the fronds, imparts a light licorice/anise flavor to all of the vegetables that needs no other adornment.
As I sat at the table devouring this lovely collection of veggies, beans and grains, it struck me that on no other diet besides a whole-food, plant-based one can you eat this much in one sitting and walk away not feeling like you just swallowed a bowling ball. There’s something special about finishing a large meal and feeling satisfied instead of stuffed, sluggish and heavy. I noticed it even more when I went oil-free, and it’s the most pronounced on days that I eat high raw.
It’s a blessing that I think allows plant-based eaters to enjoy food more. Instead of approaching a meal with the sure knowledge that you’re going to spend the next several hours suffering unpleasant symptoms, you can go into it knowing that 1) the food is going to taste awesome and 2) the meal will promote your health in ways you can feel.
I’m not going to claim that this recipe is magical in any particular way aside from being vegan and delicious. (Not tooting my own horn here–the amazing flavor all comes from the veggies!) However, I would be remiss if I didn’t include at least a few fennel facts courtesy of World’s Healthiest Foods. Fennel:
- is a good source of vitamin C, potassium, manganese and molybdenum.
- delivers a healthy dose of fiber.
- contains a phytonutrient called anethole that may reduce inflammation.
- shows promise in fighting cancer by shutting down specific inflammatory signals.
So enjoy your fennel (and other summer veggies) whenever you can get it fresh and in season! You can use the whole thing at once, like in this recipe, or split it up. The bulb is great for roasting or putting in soups, the greens make a great salad component and the fronds may be used to season dishes like you would with any fresh herb.
- 1/2 cup sliced onions
- 2 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 fennel bulb, white parts sliced and green parts chopped
- 1 medium carrot, sliced
- 1/2 cup parsnips, sliced
- 1/2 cup zucchini sliced
- 1/2 cup yellow summer squash, sliced
- 1/2 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained
- 1/2 cup chickpeas or cooked lentils
- Place the onion and garlic in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Saute until the onion is soft and the garlic is fragrant and starting to brown, about 5 minutes.
- Add the fennel bulb, carrot and parsnips, and saute for 5 minutes more. Toss in the fennel stems and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash and chickpeas or lentils to the pan. Saute for about 5 minutes more, or until the zucchini and summer squash are soft and the beans are heated through.
- Stir in the fennel fronds and remove from the heat. Serve hot over your choice of cooked grains.
What’s your favorite thing to do with fennel?