Machias Community Church

We are going to eat it raw! 

Posted by Pastor Ron Thursday, December 16, 2010 8:00:00 AM

We've been asked more than once at the grocery check out what we were going to do with the fennel.  By the checker.  Just because they sell the stuff doesn't mean they know what to do with it.

The answer usually goes something like this:  "We are going to eat it raw.  In a Fennel Salad.  But you can cook it.  In fact the stalks are really good in soup as a substitute for celery.  Celery turns mushy but fennel retains its crunch.  We add some to our Thanksgiving dressing...  ... ..." 

The answer can be as short or long as I want depending on my mood, the mood of the checker and the mood of the other people in the express line.

So, let's make a Fennel Salad.  You will need a fennel bulb, some Romano cheese, several limes, some vitamin S (sugar) and a squirt of EVOO.  Basil flakes and anise seed are optional but pine nuts are a necessary luxury. 

For tools you need a Kiwi knife, a large bowl to toss the salad together, a lime squeezer or really strong hands, a small jar to mix your dressing and a couple of smaller bowls to serve your salad.

I have found no short cut for manually slicing the fennel bulb with a Kiwi knife.  A mandolin slicer will not give you the extremely thin slices and a food processor will turn your fennel into either chunks or mush.  Learn the art of the veggie ninja.

When you get down to the fennel stocks decide if you want to risk skin in the game.  Remember the stalks work great in soup.  But if you hold them like this you can keep your salad vegetarian.

Just run the side of the blade along your knuckles and keep your finger tips and thumb out of the way.  If your sliced fennel turns red you'll know you made a boo boo.

Slice the Romano into slabs and then julienne that.  The larger sturdier Kiwi works better for this.  The other one is too flexible and it might turn and bite you.

Toss the sliced fennel and julienned Romano together in the big bowl.  You can add basil flakes and anise seeds in at this time, just don't forget to floss later.  While they are all getting acquainted start squeezing your limes.

I bought a fancy stainless steel squeezer having spent more buying and breaking the cheaper ones.   Wash and roll the limes before you squeeze them.  Drink Tip:  I chuck a couple of the squeezed-out lime peels into my water tumbler.  Tastes great.

I've already added a couple of tablespoons of vitamin S into the jar and will float some olive oil on top before I shake it furiously to mix it all up.  Mixing Tip: use a jar that has a lid.

Now put some of your tossed Fennel/Romano into a serving bowl, add your pine nuts and pour on your lime dressing.

Extra notes: 

1. Lime juice will pickle the fennel and the thinner you slice it the more pronounced (and tasty) the effect and the quicker it will happen.

2. Lime juice will emulsify Romano and the thicker you julienne it the slower this will happen ~ let taste and texture preference be your guide.

3. EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) will coat the fennel and slow the pickling process so experiment but I've settled on less rather than more.

4. Vitamin S tastes real good.  :-D   I've settled on more rather than less.

5. Kids don't like this.  This is an adult dish.  Tell them that and they might want to try it.

6. We find one fennel bulb makes two large servings.  Large enough that, along with foccia bread we consider it a full meal.

7. The same total amount could be divided up in much smaller servings for guests as one of the courses in a fancy dinner.  As a general rule the smaller the amount each person gets per course the fancier the dinner.  If you have your guests dress up in formal dinner attire you can get by with three pinenuts per person.  Very special.