By Natalia Gill, from An Appetite For Joy
Bright, aromatic fennel is deepened and mellowed as it sautes alongside onion and and a touch of apple. Topped with lemony walnut crumbs, this dish enchants the palate and comforts the soul. (Incidentally, fennel eases digestion, an added reason to include it in any holiday meal!)
Fresh fennel is a food that just recently captured my attention. I was ambivalent bordering strongly disinterested until, one day over the summer, some “friends of friends” brought a fennel-apple-walnut salad to a potluck. It was outstanding, and since then I’ve gone a little fennel crazy, experimenting with soups and salads. And now, I can’t get enough of this gratin!
I just love how versatile this perennial herb is! The wispy leaves are perfect in salads and the stalks make a pretty, edible bouquet for the table.
Once, the “fennel bouquet” suddenly and mysteriously disappeared. I searched high and low and eventually wrote it off as just another housekeeping conundrum. But later, I found it in my 2-yr. old daughter’s room, carefully displayed on her dresser next to a vase of dried hydrangeas. My heart melts every time I think of it!
I hope that you enjoy this as much as we do, and if you haven’t yet worked with fennel that you are inspired to give it a try!
- 2.5 cups fennel (about 1 small-medium bulb quartered, core removed and sliced into ¼ inch-thick pieces)
- 1.5 cups onion (about 1 small-medium onion, peeled & quartered, sliced into ¼ inch-think pieces)
- 1 cup apple (1 small or ½ large apple peeled, cut into thin slices then diced to match fennel and onion pieces)
- 2T ghee or coconut oil
- 2T fresh parsley
- 1t fresh thyme
- 1cup walnuts (soaked and dehydrated)
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese (or substitute ¾ cup walnuts, 2t coconut oil and salt to taste)
- 1 lemon, zest of (about 1T)
- 2T fresh parsley
- 1t fresh thyme
- 1 sprig of fennel
- FOR THE BASE: Heat ghee or coconut oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add vegetables and sauté until they begin to "sweat" (about 2-4 minutes). Sprinkle with salt and reduce heat to low.
- Add the herbs to the vegetables and saute, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes, until they are soft, but not yet caramelizing.
- Meanwhile heat the oven to 350 degrees.
- FOR THE TOPPING: Process the walnuts until they resemble coarse crumbs. Add the remaining topping ingredients and pulse a few times until integrated, but still rather coarse.
- ASSEMBLY: Place vegetables in a smallish casserole or gratin dish (mine is 6 cups/1.5 quarts). Top with crumbs (you may have more than you want or need - use them for in a salad or another dish). Cover and bake for 30 minutes covered, then uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes. Serve.
•Make only the vegetable base, then add 4 cups of broth and simmer for twenty minutes. Puree and top with caramelized onions as a terrific starter soup.
•The grain-free crumb topping would be delicious in pasta or a salad, on baked potatoes...just about anything.
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This sounds amazing! I too have only recently discovered the wonders of fennel. Fennel seed has done wonders for my Italian-flavored dishes and soups! Now I use it all the time.
That fennel/anise/licorice flavor is so common in other country’s cuisines. I wonder why it’s not big in the American palette?
That sounds delicious!
I don’t know, but it should be! Maybe with lesser used ingredients/flavors being popularized on cooking shows and in magazines & blogs, it will grow in popularity.
I also love Fennel! But find that often people haven’t tried it before. So glad you shared a great recipe that uses it. I think that the apple in the recipe is a perfect complement to the fennel.
Love fennel! Great recipe!
I made this wonderful recipe, sans topping, for Thanksgiving dinner at my friends house. Everyone liked it . It has a mild & refreshing flavor. It is one of my favorite recipes.
Thanks so much.