> Holidays > Tu bShvat > Recipes

The Greengrocer

May 9, 2009 | by Chef Herschel Arnow

Start thinking fennel.

Shopping for fruits and vegetables should be a lot of fun. It is a real form of self-expression -- there are so many possibilities. I love to shop at the Machaneh Yehuda Shuk, Jerusalem's main marketplace, where anything and everything can be found. The fruits and vegetables are big and beautiful. The inferior produce are usually put on the side under the table and sold at a greatly reduced price. I save 50% from my fruit and vegetable bill when I buy what is called in Israel "sug bet," or "2nd grade." They may not look as nice and they could be slightly bruised, but they often taste better than 1st grade. Bruised and over-ripe doesn't necessarily mean bad, and can be put to good use in the kitchen.

When the greengrocer is overstocked in a certain item, the shop owner shouts that he's selling the overstock at a very low price. Everyone gathers around, filling bags. This is when I have fun, especially when the item is one that I am not familiar with.

This was the case last week with fennel. Not something I often use, I went to the online food dictionary to see what I'm dealing with. This is what I found on

FENNEL – [FEHN-ul] There are two main types of this aromatic plant, both with pale green, celery-like stems and bright green, feathery foliage. Florence fennel, also called finocchio, is cultivated throughout the Mediterranean and in the United States. It has a broad, bulbous base that's treated like a vegetable. Both the base and stems can be eaten raw in salads or cooked in a variety of methods such as braising, sautéing or in soups. The fragrant, graceful greenery can be used as a garnish or snipped like dill and used for a last-minute flavor enhancer. This type of fennel is often mislabeled "sweet anise," causing those who don't like the flavor of licorice to avoid it. The flavor of fennel, however, is sweeter and more delicate than anise and, when cooked, becomes even lighter and more elusive than in its raw state. Common fennel is the variety from which the oval, greenish-brown fennel seeds come. The seeds are available whole and ground and are used in both sweet and savory foods, as well as to flavor many liqueurs. As with most seeds, they should be stored in a cool, dark place for no more than 6 months. Though common fennel is bulbless, its stems and greenery are used in the same ways as those of Florence fennel. Fennel is available from fall through spring. Choose clean, crisp bulbs with no sign of browning. Any attached greenery should be a fresh green color. Refrigerate, tightly wrapped in a plastic bag, up to 5 days. Fennel is rich in vitamin A and contains a fair amount of calcium, phosphorus and potassium.

The following recipes are all taken from

Fennel, Leek and Spinach Soup

Ideal for any spring occasion.

  • 6 tbsps. (3/4 stick) unsalted pareve [non-dairy] margarine
  • 6 cups chopped fresh fennel bulbs
  • 4 cups chopped leeks (white and pale green parts only)
  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 2/3 cup (packed) fresh spinach leaves


Melt margarine in a large pot over medium heat. Add fennel and leeks. Saute until just translucent, about 15 minutes. Add broth to cover the pot. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Puree soup in small batches in a blender until smooth, adding spinach to the last batch before pureeing. Return the soup to the same pot. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead.) Refrigerate until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated.)

Re-warm soup over low heat, stirring occasionally. Ladle into bowls and serve.

Makes 8 servings.


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Orange, Fennel and Avocado Salad

  • 1 1/2 tbsps. white-wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 navel orange
  • 1 fennel bulb (sometimes called anise: 3/4 lb.), stalks cut off and discarded
  • 1 firm-ripe California avocado


Whisk together vinegar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until salt is dissolved, then add oil, whisking until combined well.

Cut peel, including all white pith, from orange. Halve orange lengthwise, then cut crosswise into thin slices. Halve fennel bulb lengthwise, then cut crosswise into very thin slices. Halve, pit, and peel avocado, then cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Toss orange, fennel, and avocado with dressing to combine.

Makes 4 servings.


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Fennel-Crusted Ahi Tuna with Lemon Aioli over Couscous

  • 2 tsps. fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 tsps. kosher salt, divided
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsps. fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tbsps. chopped fresh chives
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced, divided
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 carrot, peeled, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 2 tsps. chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 1/2 lb. sugar snap peas
  • 2 cups couscous
  • 2 tbsps. chopped fresh dill
  • 2 1/2 lbs. ahi tuna steaks (about 1 1/4 inches thick)


Combine first 3 ingredients in heavy small skillet. Toast over medium heat until fragrant, shaking skillet occasionally, about 3 minutes. Grind spice mixture in spice grinder. Transfer to bowl; mix in 1 tsp. salt.

Whisk mayonnaise, lemon juice, chives, and half of garlic in small bowl. (Can be made 2 days ahead. Store spice mixture at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate lemon aioli.)

Heat 2 tbsps. oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add carrots and onion and saute until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Add thyme and remaining garlic and saute 1 minute. Add 2 1/4 cups water and remaining ½ tsp. salt; bring to boil. Add sugar snap peas and cook until crisp-tender, about 1 minute. Using slotted spoon, transfer peas to plate. Immediately add couscous to water in skillet and stir to combine. Cover and remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Fluff couscous with fork. Transfer to bowl and cool completely.. Mix in sugar snap peas and dill. Season to taste with pepper. (Couscous can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Prepare barbecue (high heat). Coat tuna with 6 tbsps. oil. Sprinkle with spice mixture. Grill tuna until seared outside and rare in center, about 4 minutes per side. Refrigerate uncovered for 1 hour, then cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Spoon couscous onto plates. Top with tuna and drizzle with lemon aioli.

Makes 6 servings.


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Roasted Fennel and Baby Carrots

  • 6 bunches baby carrots, peeled and trimmed, leaving ½ inch of stems intact
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, stalks discarded and bulbs cut into ½-inch thick wedges
  • 3 tbsps. olive oil
  • 3 tbsps. water
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper


Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 450°F. (If you're making just this dish, you can put oven rack in middle position and roast vegetables on that rack throughout.)

Toss carrots and fennel with olive oil, water, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper and arrange in 1 layer in a 17" X 11" shallow baking pan. Cover pan with foil and roast vegetables in lower third of oven 10 minutes, then uncover and roast, turning occasionally, 10 minutes more. Switch pan to upper third of oven and roast until vegetables are tender and browned, about 10 minutes more.

Makes 6 servings.


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Fennel Slaw with Black Pepper

This simple side dish is terrific with grilled fish. For a pretty presentation, serve the slaw on radicchio leaves.

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tbsps. chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 tsps. ground pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. grated lemon peel
  • 1 1/2 lbs. fresh fennel bulbs, thinly sliced


Mix first 6 ingredients in large bowl. Add fennel and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt. (Can be made 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.) Toss again before serving.

Makes 4 servings.


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Pan-Seared Tuna topped with Fennel Salad


  • 1/2 medium fennel bulb (fresh anise), thinly sliced
  • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsps. olive oil
  • 2 tbsps. orange juice
  • 1 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 2 8-oz. tuna fillets (about 1 1/4 in. thick).
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves


Combine first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.)

Heat heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Brush fish generously with oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add fish to skillet and cook just until cooked through and brown, about 6 minutes per side. Transfer to plates. Mix parsley into fennel mixture. Top fish with fennel mixture and serve.

Makes 2 servings.


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Fennel Mashed Potatoes

  • 2 1/2 lbs. fennel bulbs including fronds (sometimes called anise; about medium)
  • 1 cup whole milk, or pareve [non-dairy] substitute
  • 2 tsps. extra-virgin olive oil


Peel and quarter potatoes. In a kettle cover potatoes with salted cold water by 2" and simmer until very tender, about 30 minutes.

While potatoes are simmering, trim fennel stalks flush with bulbs, reserving fronds and discarding stalks. Halve bulb and discard core. Cut bulbs into 1/4-in. thick slices. Chop reserved fronds and in a large saucepan poach sliced fennel and three fourths fronds in milk at a bare simmer, covered, until very tender, about 30 minutes. Drain potatoes in a colander and transfer to a large bowl.

In a blender puree fennel mixture until smooth (use caution when blending hot liquids). Add fennel puree to potatoes and mash with a potato masher. Season potatoes with salt and pepper. Potatoes can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered. Reheat potatoes, covered in a 350°F oven about 30 minutes.

Serve potatoes drizzled with oil and sprinkled with remaining fennel fronds.

Makes 6 servings.



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