A Fear of Fennel.

Phew.  At last.  All of the recipe pages are officially updated under their directed titles.  I hope this makes it much easier to find what you’re looking for.  And, I promise here and now, that I’ll try to stay on top of organizing the recipes, rather than waiting a month (or two) down the road. 😉

Remember back when I was deathly afraid of using a pizza stone in my kitchen?

Well.

I have other fears.  One of them is called fennel.

Fennel is pretty.

It smells like licorice.

But it scares me.

Admittedly, whenever a recipe calls for fresh fennel bulb, I skip right over it, pretending that I never even saw the word.  But last night, I felt braver than normal.  So I cut off the tops, cored out the middle and sliced up the sweet smelling bulb.

I took a bite or two to figure out what kind of ingredient it was that I was working with, and then I found myself taking a bite or two more.  It was sweet!  I wanted to stop what I was doing, throw together a salad and make a fennel dressing.

But I still wasn’t sure how I felt about adding such sweet licorice flavor to a big batch of soup.  Suddenly I felt like I was on the Food Network’s Chopped.  Where one wrong move could have me on the chopping block, but one daringly awesome move could land me as a champion.

Oh the pressure.

(As a side note, the entire fennel plant is edible.  I kind of like the stems, which remind me of celery with a licorice flavor.  Don’t knock it till you try it.  Although I wouldn’t recommend making ants on a log with this substitute. 😉 )

So I closed my eyes and threw in the sliced fennel, still not sure how I felt about this addition.

But sometimes facing your fears results in nothing short of wonderful.

Sometimes it just takes time.   In this case, two hours.  Two hours of melding and mellowing and intermingling.

The result was splendid.

I didn’t taste licorice.

I didn’t taste any intoxicating overkill of sweetness.

I tasted sweet vegetables, chewy bits of barley and a luxuriously thick broth.  The fennel was just an accent.  Not the star or the focus of the dish at all.

Once again, my fears have been averted.

Once again, I’ve learned my lesson.  Sometimes you’ve just got to close your eyes, take a leap of faith and trust that it will all turn out okay.

Sometimes it just takes time.

Sometimes the result is nothing short of wonderful.

Stovetop Barley with Sweet Vegetables–recipe adapted and modified from the Clean Eating Cookbook
(serves 6)

I made some minor adjustments to this easy one-pot meal.  Mainly by adding lots more water, turning this dish into more of a thick, creamy stew.  Serve with thick crusty bread, which is great for dunking.

  •  1 cup hulled barley (or pearl, which is still nutritious but not as much as the hulled)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 2 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 32 oz. vegetable broth
  • 2-3 cups. water
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 1 rutabaga, peeled and cubed
  • 12 brussels sprouts, quartered
  • 1 small fennel bulb, halved, cored and sliced
  1. In a large dutch oven or soup pot, add barley, rice, soy sauce, vegetable broth and water.  Cover and bring to a boil.
  2. When starting to boil, add all the vegetables.  Cover, reduce heat and simmer 2-1/2 hours.  Add more water as need until desired consistency.  The barley will soak up more water as the cooking time continues.
  3. Serve immediately.
QUESTION: What are some fears you’ve overcome in life or the kitchen?
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15 comments on “A Fear of Fennel.

  1. Evan says:

    Fennel is one of my favorite ingredients. Try cutting it into wedges, roasting them in olive oil, s+p, and tossing it with freshly grated asiago cheese when it’s hot out of the oven! I’m glad you overcame your fear of the stuff 🙂

    In the kitchen, I’ve definitely overcome the fear of cooking meat and fish – now, it’s second nature. Caramel, too. I can whip up a homemade salted butter caramel sauce at the drop of a hat. However, I still haven’t conquered my apprehension when it comes to marshmallows…every time I try them (which isn’t very often), it’s dismal…

  2. I just used fennel last night, actually. It’s funny because prior to that I can’t remember the last time I made a dish with fennel. I made Joy the Baker’s Brussel Sprout and Fennel Salad with Pomegranate. It was good. Not amazing, but good.

  3. i like fennel but i’ve never brought it home to cook with. i keep meaning to and them wimp out–you’ve inspired me!! 🙂

    for a long time i feared yeast but i’ve overcome that! same with heating egg yolks to make ice cream!

    • Yes, I have a thing with yeast too. It’s very temperamental. 😉

      I’m in awe that you heat egg yolks to make your own ice cream! I must try this, especially since I have an untouched ice cream machine sitting in storage. Sad, but true.

  4. Aranel says:

    Oh, fennel is quite an exiciting thing for me. I also do not yet know what to do with it to use it best… hope you will continue with posting recipes containing this amazing vegetable. 🙂

    My fears and cooking challenges: Topinambours, definitely; also beetroot, in some way, and various kinds of radishes.

  5. you recipes always make me so hungry! my mom once roasted fennel with some other veggies in the oven and it was really good

  6. Caitlyn says:

    Oh, I remember the day I first used fennel! I had decided to make Pappa al Pomodoro, a recipe in one of my Barefoot Contessa books. One of the ingredients it called for was fennel. I spent a good 10 mintues trying to find it in the produce section because I had no idea what it looked like. Then I had to google it to figure out what part was edible.

    Not too impressive, I know. Now, I love fennel! Everytime I cook with it, I am amazed that it smells like licorice.

  7. BroccoliHut says:

    I just recently tried fennel for the first time too–I made it as part of a roasted vegetable medley with tomatoes and peppers.
    I used to be really afraid of poaching, but now I feel a lot more comfortable after actually trying it!

  8. I have never cooked with fennel before… but I might have to now 🙂
    I have a fear of poaching an egg. I haven’t tried, but I am afraid of messing it up. Want to try sooner or later though!

  9. Alexiasana says:

    i love shaved fennel salads.. mhmm.. and roasted fennel too! such a great and light vegetable. I still fear egg yolks, i absolutely dont like the taste of them. and nobody around me understands it because they all go CRAAAAZY about the yolk!!!

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