We are huge fennel fans here at the nursery. It’s a lovely vegetable and very versatile. Fennel is often sliced thin and eaten raw in salads or tossed in a creamy dressing and served as more of a slaw. When eaten raw, it’s crunchy, with a faint anise flavor, which is why I think some people shy away from it. Once it’s roasted or grilled, that anise flavor tames down and the fennel takes on a subtle, sweet flavor. The whole bulb, including the stalks and fronds are edible. I like to save the fronds for garnish and even sprinkle them on other dishes throughout the week.
Parsley and Dill are also very good, versatile herbs that go well in sauces, soups, stews, salads and many other dishes that accompany this dish. Oh and we certainly cannot forego mentioning how all three of these herbs are great host plants for the black swallowtail buttery. Stop by the nursery to see our herb selection and more butterfly/herb gardening info.
This recipe is what Elizabeth calls the "perfect winter salad" equipped with her favorite winter herbs and vegetables.
For the salad:
2 medium-sized fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into 1/2 inch wedges (save the fronds for garnish)
4 beets, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Pinch of black pepper
1 cup French green lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 tablespoons fennel fronds
2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped dill
For the sauce:
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons tahini
1/2 teaspoon local honey
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped dill
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat the oven to 425ºF.
2. Toss the fennel and beets with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet and roast in the oven until tender and lightly browned, about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through cooking.
3. While the vegetables are roasting, place the lentils in a saucepan with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer uncovered until the lentils are tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain and set aside.
4. Combine all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl and whisk until smooth and creamy. Taste test and adjust seasonings if need be.
4. To serve, divide the lentils between 4 plates and top with the roasted vegetables. Drizzle with the sauce and garnish each plate with fennel fronds, parsley and dill. Season with additional salt and pepper.