I remember the first time I had fennel.

It was in a tomato vegetable soup at Hell’s Kitchen, the restaurant in downtown Minneapolis, back when it was at its old, smaller location on 10th Street. I rarely ate out so when my boss took me to lunch, I quickly scanned the menu and went with the standard soup and sandwich combo.

In this case, the sandwich was a grilled vegetable panini, which is still on the menu 13 years later, and the tomato vegetable soup, which was full of vegetables including fennel. Fennel was an unfamiliar vegetable for me.

Over the next couple of years, I started seeing fennel on more menus and that once unfamiliar flavor of anise has now become a familiar one that I use in home cooking.

Fennel is readily available from fall through winter, making it a popular vegetable throughout the colder months. While the bulb is the most coveted, the stalks and fronds do well in stocks, roasts, and as garnish for salads and other dishes.

Most recently, I used the bulb and fronds in a roasted salmon dish along with endive, a bitter and sharp vegetable also available in the winter. If you’re looking for some new flavors to try, I’d highly suggest this dish.

It pairs nicely with simply seasoned salmon and I served it over a bed of red quinoa.

Roasted Salmon with Winter Vegetables
Serves 4

Ingredients: 
1 1/4 lb. salmon, cut into 4 pieces
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
Salt and pepper to taste
1 head of fennel, including fronds
2 Belgian endive
1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 tbsp white wine
2 tbsp fresh parsley, for garnish

Directions:
Preheat oven to 425°. Prep vegetables. Cut the fennel bulb into wedges, chop fronds and set aside. Trim and quarter the endive.

Once oven is preheated, pat fish dry with paper towels and then rub filets with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Set skin-side down on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until desired doneness. It should flake easily when cooked.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the fennel wedges and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes per side. Add endive quarters and let sit for 2 minutes per side to brown. Add chicken broth and cook until reduced significantly, about 3-5 minutes. Remove vegetables from the pan, add white wine and swirl around the pan to deglaze. Set pan sauce aside.

To serve, divide vegetables among four plates and top with salmon. Pour remaining wine liquid over fish and garnish with fennel fronds and parsley.

Serve alongside quinoa or other grain.

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