Finding fennel’s flavor

Each week, I browse my many recipe reservoirs for that week’s dinner inspiration—Pinterest, Half Baked Harvest, cookbooks, you get the idea. Knowing that I’d have a short work and cooking week (hi, vacation!), I panicked when I realized I didn’t have a plan for the blog.

Luckily, NYT Cooking, easily my most “adventurous” recipe reservoir, hosts a wealth of picky-eater-blog inspiration.

Looking for an easy new ingredient to try, and to take advantage of my picky boyfriend getting dinner on his own that night, I made Martha Rose Shulman’s fennel rice recipe.

More accurately, I made fennel farro, opting for a higher-protein grain for this vegetarian dinner. Since I know fennel seeds are a predominant flavor in Italian sausage (one of my favorite proteins), I was excited to get to know the root of that flavor more.

Steamy fennel, onions, and farro

After staring at my fennel bulb for a solid 5 minutes wondering where to start and then watching a quick YouTube video of how to prep fennel, I got to work on sautéing it with some onions and garlic and simmering my farro.

I also swapped the recipe’s fresh dill for some of the fennel fronds in the broth—partly to maximize my fennel exposure and partly because I was still bitter about how much dill I wound up wasting making tzatziki a couple weeks ago.

The verdict

This was not bad at all. I ate more than my fill and was happy to have made a healthy, satisfying meal.

I added some red pepper flakes for a little spice and enjoyed leftovers for lunch the next day (any dinner that doubles as a healthy leftover lunch is a winner in my book). I bet a little lemon juice would be yummy in this as well.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t discern a strong fennel flavor from the dish, and having never had it before, I don’t know if that’s because it’s so mild or because of the cooking method. I definitely wasn’t picking up any of the flavors of Italian sausage.

Commenters on the original recipe recommended cooking your grain separately from the fennel sauté, but I decided to stick to the recipe on my first try (adding the farro and water directly to the sauté to simmer together).

The herby, frondy broth (that is secretly sucking the flavor out of my fennel)

Next time, I’ll take the commenters’ advice as I suspect that keeping the fennel sautéed without then simmering it in broth might capture more of its natural flavor. I’d also like to try a different kind of fennel recipe to get to know its flavor better…now that I know it’s not disgusting, of course.

If it was another week, I would’ve squeezed a second fennel dish somewhere into my menu #fortheblog, but I will be way too busy sun-bathing burning in Myrtle Beach to be thinking about fennel! Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram @thepickyeaterchronicles how I should try cooking this veggie next, and I promise to come back to it after my time in the sun!

Published by Bethy St. John

Lifelong picky eater with a love for all things cooking. I'm a complicated woman.

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