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Cooking | Magazine

Recipes: Roasted on its own or added to stews or salads, fennel delivers

Roast it with rosemary, add it to a tasty salad with oranges and harissa yogurt, or pair it with white beans, sage, and garlic for a great side or main dish.

Roasted fennel with rosemary.
Roasted fennel with rosemary.Connie Miller/of CB Creatives

From its bulb to its seeds, stalks, and fronds, fennel has a slightly floral, anise-like flavor that blends well into so many dishes. The crunchy bulb also adds texture and body to salads and stews. Roasting on its own brings out its natural sweetness for a wonderful side to meats; we coat wedges of it with rosemary, red pepper, white wine, and olive oil. A tangle of shaved fennel forms the base of a creamy-spicy-crunchy salad tossed with orange segments, briny green olives, green chilies, and a cooling harissa yogurt. And diced fennel flavors a tomato and white bean stew topped with fried sage and sage oil.

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Roasted Fennel With Rosemary

Makes 4 servings

Roasting brings out the natural sweetness of fresh fennel, but it also mellows its characteristic flavor. To keep the flavor bold and true, we include ground fennel seed. A splash of white wine and a pinch of red pepper flakes also enhance the fennel. Pair this side dish with roasted meats or poultry, seared steaks or chops, or sautéed chicken breast.

Remember to remove the cores from the fennel bulb halves. The cores are often tough and fibrous.

4 medium fennel bulbs (about 2¾ pounds), trimmed, halved, cored, and cut lengthwise into 1-inch wedges

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon ground fennel

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

¼ cup dry white wine

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Heat the oven to 475 degrees with a rack in the middle position. In a large bowl, toss together the fennel wedges, oil, ground fennel, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Place in a stovetop-safe large roasting pan in an even layer. Roast until browned and a knife inserted into the largest piece meets no resistance, 30 to 35 minutes, stirring once halfway through.

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Remove the pan from the oven and set over low heat on the stovetop. Pour in the wine and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until the wine has almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the rosemary and pepper flakes. Taste and season with salt and pepper if necessary.

White Beans With Sage, Garlic, and Fennel

Makes 4 servings

This is a simplified version of classic Tuscan fagioli all’uccelletto. For complexity, we flavor the beans with three layers of sage — finely chopped leaves, sage-infused oil, and crumbled fried leaves. Any variety of canned white beans will work, though great northern and navy beans hold their shape better than cannellini. This dish is hearty enough to serve as a main course — it’s excellent with grilled rustic bread — but is also a good accompaniment to roast chicken or pork.

Drain only one can of beans. The liquid from one can creates a sauce-like consistency that keeps the beans succulent.

Note: To make the recipe using dried white beans, start by soaking ½ pound dried great northern beans in 6 cups water and 1½ tablespoons salt overnight. The next day, heat an oven to 300 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Drain the beans and add them to a large saucepan along with 2 bay leaves and 1 head garlic with the top third removed. Pour in 2 cups water, bring to a simmer over high, cover, and bake until the beans are tender and creamy, about 1 hour. Drain the beans (reserving the liquid) then proceed with the recipe, substituting the cooked beans for the canned beans.

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6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage, plus 20 whole leaves

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

14½-ounce can diced tomatoes

2 15½-ounce cans white beans (see note), 1 can rinsed and drained

Shaved or grated Parmesan cheese, to serve

In a large Dutch oven over medium, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil until shimmering. Add the fennel, onion, garlic, chopped sage, red pepper flakes, and 1 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 15 minutes.

Stir in the tomatoes and the beans. Cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer, for 10 minutes. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, line a plate with paper towels. In a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the remaining 3 tablespoons oil until shimmering. Add the sage leaves and cook, flipping the leaves once, until the edges begin to curl, about 1 minute. Transfer to the prepared plate; reserve the oil.

Transfer the beans to a serving bowl, then drizzle with the sage oil. Coarsely crumble the sage leaves over the beans. Top with Parmesan.

Fennel-orange salad with harissa and yogurt.
Fennel-orange salad with harissa and yogurt.Connie Miller/of CB Creatives

Fennel-Orange Salad With Harissa and Yogurt

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Makes 4 servings

This recipe, our adaptation of a salad from Coal Office restaurant in London, is a crisp, creamy update of the classic North African pairing of fennel, orange, and olives. Harissa adds spice; Greek yogurt is a cooling counterpoint. Use your olive of choice — we tried several varieties and liked them all. Sweet mini peppers are sold in bags in grocery stores everywhere; if you prefer a spicier salad, use a jalapeño chili instead.

Fennel sliced too thin will wilt and become soggy. Aim for slices between 1/8 to ¼ inch thick. This salad is all about contrasting textures. By rubbing the fennel with salt and lemon, the thicker slices will become pleasingly crisp-tender.

2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, halved lengthwise, cored and thinly sliced crosswise

2 tablespoons lemon juice

Kosher salt

1 navel orange

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons harissa paste, plus more as needed

½ teaspoon white sugar

1 sweet mini pepper (see note), stemmed, sliced into thin rings

½ cup pitted olives, roughly chopped

1/3 cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped

1/3 cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt

¼ cup lightly packed fresh mint, torn if large

In a large bowl, toss the fennel, lemon juice, and 1½ teaspoons salt, gently rubbing the salt into the fennel. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, grate the zest from the orange (about 1 tablespoon); set aside. Slice ½ inch off the top and bottom of the orange. Stand the orange on a cut end and cut from top to bottom following the contours of the fruit to remove the peel and white pith. Halve the orange from top to bottom, then slice each half into ¼-inch-thick half-rounds.

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After the fennel has rested for 30 minutes, add the orange zest, oil, harissa, and sugar; toss to combine. Add the orange slices, pepper rings, olives, and almonds, then toss again. Taste and season with salt and harissa.

Dollop the yogurt onto the center of a platter, spreading it in an even layer. Using a slotted spoon, mound the salad on top of the yogurt. Sprinkle with mint, then serve.


Christopher Kimball is the founder of Milk Street, home to a magazine, school, and radio and television shows. Globe readers get 12 weeks of complete digital access, plus two issues of Milk Street print magazine, for just $1. Go to 177milkstreet.com/globe. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.