Monday, October 15, 2007
Love the stuff! There will be a fish soup with fennel coming down the pipe a little later in “soup season” but for now, just a shout out to a staple here in my little French life.
I eat a lot of fennel and in a whispered admission of such to a friend of mine, I jokingly wondered out loud, “Is it possible to eat too much fennel?!” (I told you, I eat a lot of it!) This friend, always a veritable wellspring of information on well to little known pieces of information, she turned up with a little book that would not only quell any concerns for eating too much fennel, but also fill me in on the benefits.
According to Jean Palaiseul’s Grandmother’s Secrets, Her Green Guide to Health from Plants, fennel is a native of these parts and grows wild in fairly difficult conditions (rocky banks and rubble mounds and given that, it might have even done well in my old decomposed granite garden at the edge of the Pacific.). It is cultivated just about everywhere, although I must admit, they grow it a bit larger around these parts than what I used to get in So Cal!
For an additional 3 units this week at La Fourchette U. in The Health Benefits of Fennel, read on:
“There are records of the use of fennel in cooking dating back to ancient times: the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans incorporated it in their dishes; Hippocrates and Dioscorides recommended it to wet-nurses to activate the secretion of milk, as well as to persons threatened by blindness; the Chinese and Hindus used it to neutralize snakebite and scorpion stings; lastly magicians and sorcerers regarded it as a beneficent herb and believed that sprigs of fennel, hung from the rafters, would drive the evil spirits out of a house, whilst the seeds, inserted in the keyholes, would bar the way to ghosts.
“Outside the kitchen – where you can use the leaves (either fresh and finely chopped like chervil, or dried and powdered) or the seeds (dried and ground like pepper) for sprinkling on stews, fish and farinaceous vegetables which are thus rendered more digestible – fennel has many other uses.
“The dried seeds are prescribed for stomach pains, aerophagia, digestive difficulties, sluggishness, lack of appetite, inflammation of the internal mucosa (bronchitis, gastritis, enteritis, cystitis, etc.), as an infusion (25 to 40 grams to a litre of water; leave to infuse for ten to fifteen minutes; one cupful to be taken after the two main meals of the day).
“ ‘Fennel seeds’, writes the Abbé Kneipp, ‘should be in every family medicine chest, for they are a remedy for conditions that occur very frequently; I am speaking of griping pains and flatulence…A spoonful of fennel should be cooked in a cupful of milk for five to ten minutes and given immediately to the afflicted member of the family, to be drunk as hot as possible…It generally brings about a rapid improvement, the warmth spreads through the body, easing griping pains and expelling flatulence. According to Oertel-Bauer this same treatment is also a sure and certain remedy for influenza.
‘Used externally, the decoction of seeds (30 to 50 grams to a litre of water; boil for about 5 minutes) is used in the steam-treatment (the head held over the steaming decoction, with a towel over the head forming a kind of tent) of conditions of the eyelids and the eyes; it is also used, lukewarm or cold, for bathing the forehead and the temples, three times a day, to ‘strengthen the nerves” and combat chronic headaches and migraines.
‘Again with the seeds you can prepare an excellent appetite stimulant and tonic recommended for anaemia and general debility: 60 to 80 grams of seeds macerated for eight to ten days in a litre of good wine (red or white); strain; one wine-glassful after meals, midday and evening.
‘A decoction of fennel root (20 to 30 grams to a litre of water; boil for five minutes; leave to infuse for a further five minutes) equally stimulates the appetite (one wineglassful before each meal); it is also an excellent diuretic, prescribed by Dioscorides for “those who can only urinate drop by drop”, and recommended by numerous specialists for disorders of the gall-bladder (calculus and biliary insuffiency) and kidney and bladder conditions(one wineglassful after each meal).’ ”
Who knew?!? Not bad, eh?
If you’ve only tried it raw in its salad role, give roasting a try.
Me, I prefer it sliced, tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, herbs de provence and roasted in a 375º oven for 20 to 30 minutes (turning once) until it is soft and caramelized. Serve it with this salmon...or with roasted salmon with a pesto drizzled over it along with roasted haricots verts...or in a party of other roasted vegetables tossed with pasta (toss in a bit of sautéed sausage, fresh tomato sauce or a couple of spoonfuls of pesto for a bit of variation on a theme)...
...or all by itself with a bit of shaved parmesan over the top once it’s on the plate.
Roasting brings out the sweetness and gives my feathery-fronded friend fennel a depth and richness, taming the strong licorice flavor that comes singing through when served raw.
What are you waiting for?! Shake a leg! We’re heading into flu season...get some fennel into that belly!
p.s. Last week I offered a link to a previous post with a more "precise" recipe for fresh tomato sauce...ooops!
Here it is:
From Patricia Wells At Home in Provence:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
3 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
Sea salt to taste
One 28-ounce can peeled Italian plum tomatoes in juice, or one 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes in purée
Bouquet garni: several sprigs of fresh parsley, bay leaves and celery leaves, tied in a bundle with household twine.
In a large unheated saucepan, combine the oil, onion, garlic, and salt, and stir to coat with oil. Cook over moderate heat just until the garlic turns golden but does not brown, 2 to 3 minutes. If using whole canned tomatoes, place a food mill over the skillet and purée the tomatoes directly into it. (Note from LF: Or crush them in your hands over the skillet like I do!) Crushed tomatoes can be added directly from the can. Add the bouquet garni, stir to blend, and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce begins to thicken, about 15 minutes. For a thicker sauce, for pizzas and toppings, cook for 5 minutes more. Taste for seasoning. Remove and discard bouquet garni. The sauce may be used immediately, stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. If small quantities of sauce will be needed for pizzas or other toppings, freeze in ice cube trays.