The following post was written by my mom, WWW. Thanks, mom!One of my favorite winter/spring vegetables is fennel. Fennel grows wild in our neck of the woods and I have many happy memories of brushing against it on hillside walks, its sweet smell clinging to my clothes. When the kids were little, we often hiked along a path, next to a lagoon, that ended in a cave-filled gully. At the start of the path, we snaked our way through native brush and I often tore off pieces of fennel for the kids to munch on. Today, even a passing whiff of its licorice scent sends me to my beloved California chaparral.
Fennel, native to the Mediterranean coast, has been naturalized in California where it now happily resides. The flavor is similar to anise and is featured in many European dishes, including pastas, risottos, soups, and salads. You can eat all parts—the bulbs, stalks, feathery leaves, and seeds. I like to braise or roast the bulbs but you can also grill them or eat them raw. (My kids loved eating raw fennel for snacks.) Besides being delicious, fennel has many medicinal benefits. It helps with digestion and even reduces colic. Many of you mentioned that Jerusalem artichokes are gas inducing. As a remedy, try eating fennel in the same meal!
Last Thursday, I opened my CSA box and was met by the seducing smell of fennel. “Oh goodie!” I said to myself. The same day, I received my March issue of Vegetarian Times containing an article about fennel with several recipes. The one that caught my eye was the split pea, fennel, and spinach soup. What I love about this recipe is that you can use the stalks of the fennel, a part that often gets wasted, leaving the meaty bulbs for other uses. The wine gives the soup a rich flavor but don’t be fooled. It is low in fat and packed with nutrition. I’m excited to have a new split pea recipe, equally delicious but completely different from my old standby.
I used the fennel stalks for the soup and roasted the bulbs in olive oil, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.
roasted bulbs with parmesan
Spit Pea, Fennel, and Spinach Soup
2 cups chopped fennel
(1 bulb or 5 fennel stalks, fronds removed)
1 large onion, chopped (2 cups)
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbs.)
1 cup dry white wine, divided
15 oz. dried green split peas
1 tsp. fennel seeds, divided
½ tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
5 oz. baby spinach leaves
Heat saucepan with cooking spray or olive oil over medium heat. Add fennel and onion, and sauté 8 minutes.
Stir in garlic, and cook 30 seconds. Add ½ cup wine and simmer 2 minutes. Add split peas, ½ tsp. fennel seeds, thyme, bay leaf, and 7 cups water.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer 50 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add remaining ½ cup wine, and cook 2 minutes, or until spinach is wilted.
Remove bay leaf and puree soup with immersion blender until smooth.
Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Toast remaining ½ tsp. fennel seeds in small skillet 2 minutes, or until fragrant. Serve soup garnished with toasted fennel seeds.
Enjoy, party people*!