Roasted Fennel With Citrus Zest & Balsamic Glaze ~ The Garden of Eating - a sinfully good blog about food

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Roasted Fennel With Citrus Zest & Balsamic Glaze

I've loved fennel ever since I was a little girl. Of course, at the time, I had no idea that it was fennel - I just knew that I LOVED the taste of the Tom's of Maine toothpaste my parents bought. I remember trying to flatten the metal tube down to nothingness to squeeze out the last delicious dribs and drabs of licorice-y goodness.

Tom's of Maine's fennel toothpaste

But I did not get to know fennel in its natural state until we moved to California 5 years ago. Then there was simply no avoiding it because the plant grows wild all over the east bay. There was a huge stand of it growing in the strip of dry dirt that flanked the sidewalk right across from our house in North Berkeley. And I'd be bombarded by the tall green stalks and yellow flowers any time I went for a walk at the Albany Bulb. Here's a pic from one of my rambles there that shows the fennel plants.

Wild fennel growing at the Albany Bulb by Eve Fox, copyright  2008

I always enjoyed watching the bees go to town on the bright yellow pollen that covers the flowers. You can actually cook with the pollen - it's considered a bit of a delicacy (maybe because it's hand-gathered) and is good in spice rubs for meat and fish and on roasted veggies, etc. I've never tried it though I did help a friend gather it once from that patch across the street from my house and she reported good results from her culinary adventures.

Wild fennel growing at the Albany Bulb by Eve Fox, copyright  2008

I think fennel bulbs look rather like the human heart, don't you? The white parts are suggestive of the chambers while the green stalks remind me of the aorta and vena cava. But I digress...

Fennel bulb by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2011

I have not seen a ton of fennel since we left the Bay Area last summer. But just last week our new CSA, Hearty Roots Community Farm in Redhook, had the good sense to include a couple of bulbs of the stuff in our weekly allotment of fresh goodies.

Fennel by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2011

I looked online for inspiration (a quick aside, if you're ever having trouble finding good recipes, I highly recommend that you check out as it lets you bypass a lot of the junk that comes up in a google search) and found several recipes for roasted fennel. I liked this one from Simply Recipes because it was, well, simple, and also looked tasty, so I went with it.

by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2011

The preparation is super easy - wash and cut the fennel, zest a bit of lemon, toss with olive oil, splash with balsamic vinegar or glaze, season with salt and pepper and roast. The only downside was having to turn the oven on in this heat. It was well over 90 degrees today so firing up the oven to 400 degrees did seem slightly insane...

by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2011

But the results were divine. Roasting gives the bulbs a mellow, almost nutty sweetness and the licorice flavor is enhanced by the hint of lemon from the zest and the rich sweetness of the balsamic glaze. The only thing I might change is to sub in pomegranate molasses for the balsamic - I'll try that next time around.

by Eve Fox, Garden of Eating blog, copyright 2011

Roasted Fennel
Serves 4


* 3 large fennel bulbs (thick base of stalk), stalks cut off, bulbs halved lengthwise, then cut lengthwise in 1-inch thick pieces
* Olive oil
* Balsamic vinegar or glaze or pomegranate molasses
*1/4 tsp lemon zest
* Sea salt
* Freshly ground black pepper


1. Preheat oven to 400°F.

2. Rub just enough olive oil over the fennel to coat. Sprinkle on some balsamic vinegar (or balsamic glaze or pomegranate molasses), also to coat. Then toss on the lemon zest, sea salt and pepper.

3. Lay out the pieces of fennel in a glass baking dish or on a heavy cookie sheet and roast for 30-40 minutes, or until the fennel is cooked through and beginning to caramelize.

I am submitting this recipe to Weekend Herb Blogging #293 hosted by Chriesi at Almond Corner.

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Jamie Dougherty said...

Holy goodness do I love fennel! Currently I've been braising it with cabbage and then slicing it raw for a tuna salad. Good hot or cold. YUM! Enjoy!,

Anonymous said...

I love fennel too- I start with olive oil and anchovies, then braise the fennel in my cast iron skillet until its blackened, adding some mustard at the end- good hot or cold on a salad. Yum.

Kristy Lynn said...

fennel is great - i use it in salads fresh with beets and got cheese. Never thought about roasting it before - good idea!

PS. Do you know what to look for when harvesting wild fennel? I have a feeling that since I live on the West coast I may be able to find some..

The Food Hunter said...

I love fennel. thanks for sharing

Shannon Marie said...

Wow, this looks amazing! Thanks for posting!