Fennel is underutilized by many home cooks. I’m not sure why because it’s fresh (ever seen canned fennel?), uniquely flavored and super nutritious. Maybe some Fennel 101 will get you stoked:
Fennel belongs to the carrot and parsley family and is a cousin of cumin, dill, caraway and anise (hence its subtle licorice flavor). The bulb is crisp and can be sautéed, stewed, braised, grilled or eaten raw. The bulb is a unique and fresh addition to warm or cold salads, vegetable and pasta dishes and risottos and is an excellent palate-cleanser between and after meals. The leaves (fronds) are delicate and taste somewhat like dill, making them the perfect edible garnish. Fennel seeds are often used to flavor Italian sausages and meatballs.
Like many spices, fennel contains a unique combination of phytonutrients, including the flavonoids rutin and quercetin, plus additional compounds that give it powerful antioxidant properties. But the most fascinating phytonutrient in fennel is anethole, repeatedly shown to reduce inflammation and prevent cancer.
Now eat it:
Now that you know the scoop, here’s a recipe to get fennel on your plate tonight. I love to put fennel in salsa. Its anise flavor partners perfectly with sweet tomatoes, fresh cilantro and tangy lime and makes an excellent topping for salmon. Not in the mood for salmon? The salsa also works well with chicken, steak and shrimp.
Roasted Salmon With Tomato-Fennel Salsa
4 salmon fillets (about 4-5 ounces each)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups diced beefsteak or Roma/plum tomatoes
1 cup diced fennel bulb
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.
Season both sides of salmon with salt and pepper. Place salmon on prepared pan and roast 12-15 minutes, until fork-tender.
Meanwhile, combine tomatoes, fennel, cilantro, lime juice, cumin and oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve salmon with salsa spooned over top.
Nutrition Info Per Serving (1 salmon fillet, 1/2 cup salsa)
Total Fat: 7 grams
Saturated Fat: 1 gram
Total Carbohydrate: 7 grams
Sugars: 3 grams
Protein: 20 grams
Sodium: 66 milligrams
Cholesterol: 49 milligrams
Fiber: 2 grams
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Robin Miller is a nutritionist, host of Quick Fix Meals, author of “Robin Takes 5” and “Robin Rescues Dinner” and the busy mom of two active little boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at www.robinrescuesdinner.com.