I’d rather do anything other than spend my time cooking. It’s not so much that I dislike the act of cooking, it’s just that there’s always something else I’d rather be doing. In order to get something on the table for my family, I try to find the easiest, fastest and healthiest recipes I can.
Even I’m kind of laughing to myself right now that I’m posting this recipe, because if you would have asked me a few weeks ago how I felt about fennel, I would have said, “Not feh, exactly, just meh.” Translation: I don’t dislike it, but I can take it or leave it. I’m not even sure that I could have identified fennel in an herbal lineup.
But when I sampled this fennel slaw at Trader Joe’s last week, I really, really liked it. I even went back for seconds, which, I know, is breaking the unwritten code of ethics for free sampling, but it was that good. The vinegar and the lemon juice mellowed the strong anise flavor, which is probably why I enjoyed this more than any other way I’ve eaten fennel.
The woman passing out the samples gave me a little speech extolling the virtues of fennel, and handed me the recipe. When I saw how easy it was, I tossed the fennel into my shopping cart, and decided to make it the very next day.
The entire process took about 15 minutes. It was so easy, and so tasty, that it will now become a part of my regular repertoire, since two-thirds of the family gave it a thumbs-up. I’ll be honest with you…Junior Goo Shoes wouldn’t go near something called fennel with a 10-foot fork, but Mr. Goo Shoes thought it was "Pretty Good." After 19 years of marriage, I know that is as close to a rave as I will ever get. I think this has something to do with the fact that he’s from Brooklyn, but he just doesn't talk in superlatives when it comes to food.
When I looked up the health benefits of fennel (I wanted to know if the woman in Trader Joe’s was telling me the truth), it had quite an impressive resume. It’s supposed to aid in digestive problems, respiratory infections, eye care, and menstrual disorders, as well as strengthening hair, sharpening memory and curing bad breath, to name just a few. But there are also some important things to know about fennel, such as that it is possibly unsafe for pregnant or nursing women; or for people who have hormone-sensitive conditions.
I suggest that you make this in the morning, so that it has a chance to absorb the flavors (I used apple cider vinegar, not the orange muscat champagne vinegar). One fennel bulb was enough for about 6 side dish servings. Slice it the way I show you here; otherwise it you will get ugly-looking chunks instead of match-stick slices. The granny smith apple and the fennel should be uniform in size. After three days in the fridge, the slaw still tasted fresh. A double recipe would be a nice thing to bring to a barbeque this summer.
TRADER JOE’S FENNEL SLAW
1 Fennel Bulb
1 Granny Smith Apple, peeled
Juice of one lemon (about 3 tablespoons)
2 Tablespoons Trader Joe’s Orange Muscat Champagne Vinegar (or Apple Cider Vinegar)
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt to taste
Dried Thyme to taste (about 1/8 teaspoon)
Cut tops and bottom off fennel. Rinse and cut into match-stick slices. Cut granny smith apple into match-stick slices. Toss fennel and apple together with juice of one lemon. In a separate bowl, whisk together vinegar with olive oil; add salt and thyme. Toss with fennel and apple. Chill.
What other ways do you use fennel? Is this something that you'll try? If you do, please let me know how you like it!