This Mediterranean vegetable, at its peak in spring and fall, has a strong anise flavor and crisp texture that’s delicious in salads when raw. When cooked, fennel softens and the flavor becomes sweet and mild. Most cooks use only the bulb, but you can treat the feathery fronds as an herb and stuff the stalks into whole fish before roasting.
1. Drinks. Fennel has been shown to aid in digestion. Muddle the fronds and mix with Campari, the bitter aperitif, and boom: a cocktail that will cure all stomach ills.
2. Risotto. Add sautéed fennel to a basic saffron risotto or one made with sausage.
3. Relish. Cook chopped fennel with pungent Mediterranean ingredients like olives and anchovies to make a delicious condiment for lamb. Or showcase fennel’s sweeter side and make a chutney with apple and bacon.
4. Pasta salad. Shave fennel on a mandoline and toss with prosciutto and warm pasta for a simple salad.
5. Braised. Brown and then gently simmer wedges of fennel in an aromatic wine for a simple side dish to serve alongside fish or lamb.
6. Stuffing. Sauté diced fennel along with onions to add to stuffing, like this one made with focaccia.
7. Pizza. To really bring out fennel’s anise flavor, cook it in Pernod, then use it as a topping for pizza.
8. Soup. Add diced fennel to any gazpacho or seafood chowder recipe, or make a luscious egg-enriched fennel soup, like this avgolemono.
9. Tomato sauce. Add diced fennel to tomato sauce for pasta or for braising eggs—a dish known as shakshuka in the Middle East.
10. Gratin. Gently bake parboiled fennel with lots of cheese for a luscious side dish.
11. Cake. Carrots aren’t the only vegetable that taste good in dessert. Fennel adds a very grown-up flavor to this nutty cake.
Kristin Donnelly is a former Food & Wine editor and cofounder of Stewart & Claire, an all-natural line of lip balms made in Brooklyn.