As I child, I did not like fennel. Raw, it has a crisp, bold, anise flavor that  takes some getting used to. Luckily for me, our palates tend to change over time, and now I can’t seem to get enough of the fresh, crunchy and delicious vegetable. I’ve been picking up a bulb every week at my farmers market in Noe Valley. Conveniently, fennel is a hardy plant, a member of the Apiaceae family, and can be grown year round here in Northern California.

Fennel is an incredibly versatile vegetable, which tastes delicious baked, roasted, even pureed with potatoes. The seeds are also used in many different types of dishes all over the world, and are a key ingredient in Chinese Five Spice Powder, as well as the familiar note found in Italian sausages. Apparently, fennel was one of the original ingredients in the firy green liquor, Abisinthe, but is rarely used for this purpose now.

I’ve been mostly eating it raw, and have been using this relatively fool proof recipe for a simple fennel salad. The key is to get really fresh ingredients; I keep fresh herbs in my fridge and snip a few leaves off with some scissors, and you have to use fresh parmesan which is so much better than anything you can get from a bottle (which tends to be flavorless and dry).

A Simple Fennel Salad

Serves 2


-2 small bulbs of fennel (or one large bulb)
-1/4 cup freshly shaved parmesan
-a few tablespoons fresh parsley

For dressing:

-Juice of 1/2 lemon
-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
-1/4 tsp. pepper
-1/2 tsp. salt


1.In a small bowl, juice half of a lemon, and slowly whisk in the olive oil with a fork. Add the salt and pepper, and taste, and set aside.

2. To start, cut the stalks and fronds (leafy bits) off of the bulb. You can discard these, or save them for making vegetable broth. You can also chop a little bit of the frond up to use as a garnish for this salad.

3. You are going to want thinly sliced fennel, which is quite easy. You just slice in the same direction as if you were slicing the stalks off, horizontally to the bulb. I just use a sharp knife, but you can use a mandoline if you have one. Although frankly my friend’s sister, a doctor, nearly sliced off part of her finger using a mandoline, so be careful! Sometimes I get rid of the tougher parts at the bottom of the bulb, but that is really preference.

4. Put the sliced fennel, parmesan, and parsley into a large bowl, and toss with the dressing. This makes for a really nice lunch, or a pleasant accompaniment to fish and some warm greens. I also like it with a nice bit of warm, crusty bread.