So What Do You Do with Fennel Leaves?

At The Delmar Farmers’ Market yesterday, Farmer DJ and a customer were talking over the colorful mounds of vegetables at his and Farmer John’s stand. The contention was fennel: what is it? how do you cook it, and then, the point at which my ears perked up: “So what do you do with the leaves?”

Fennel, classic to French cooking and also known as anise, comes from the parsley family and has a taste similar to licorice or tarragon. The entire plant can be used in both cooking and herbal medicine, and the leaves or fronds are particularly aromatic and delicate in texture and flavor. So, I got myself some fennel from DJ and took to the kitchen that night. In this article, you will see two variations on fennel fronds’ use: one with cheese and another a classic fish dish using salmon from “fin.”

The Risotto

A summer risotto with fennel fronds

All risottos use the same method of slow cooking Arborio rice, a highly absorbent rice from Italy, adding a dense stock and white or light red wine, and finishing with a flavorful cheese to create a rich, creamy texture. Because Arborio rice is imported and very fine, it can be costly. This recipe substitutes half of the Arborio rice for pearled barley, which has a similar texture and absorbency. Other ingredients can be grown in your garden and found in a local farmer’s market or specialty foods shop.

In this recipe, the vegetables garlic scapes, spring onion, and snap peas are balanced with the herbs and spices fennel frond and French paprika so as not to overpower the delightful taste of the washed rind cheese used.

Garlic Scape, Snap Pea, Fennel, and “Maggie’s Round” Risotto

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 4 garlic scapes
  • 1 small onion
  • splash of Banyuls vinegar
  • 1 cp Arborio rice
  • 1 cp pearled barley
  • 1 qt stock (vegetable or chicken)
  • 1 cp Pino Grigio wine
  • 1 cp fresh snap peas
  • ¼ cp fennel fronds
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp French paprika
  • 2 oz. Maggie’s Round, Pawlette, and/or Berleberg diced

Melt butter in a pan on medium heat. Heat stock in a separate pan and keep covered on low heat. Cut scapes and onion into butter and sauté until onions are semi-transparent. Add a splash of Banyuls (or similar light wine or rice vinegar). Add rice and barley and sauté in the butter for 1-2 minutes. Begin to add the warm stock, one cup at a time as the rice adsorbs the liquid. Stir often. When the rice and barley begin to plump, add paprika and salt, snap peas and fennel fronds. Add wine. Finish with your choice of cheeses mentioned. Stir until the cheese melts evenly throughout the risotto. The risotto will be done when the rice has taken in all the flavor and is al dente. The risotto will look creamy and generously wet around the rice and barley, neither dry nor runny. Pepper and salt to taste.

Fennel Salmon with Collards and Kale

Fennel fronds and thick greens make a wonderful base for cooking fish, and the flavor of fennel pairs particularly well with salmon. This recipe steams the fish over a bed of greens, and the fish soaks up the flavors as the steam rises.

  • 1-1/2 lbs fresh salmon
  • 2cps fennel fronds coarsely chopped
  • 4 large collard leaves cut in thick strips
  • 4 Red Russian kale leaves coarsely chopped
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • a splash of Banyuls vinegar
  • a drizzle of A L’Olivier Herbes des Provence olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Use a dutch oven or similarly large, heavy pot with lid on the stove top. Heat the pot to medium to low. Line the bottom of the pot with the cut fennel fronds, collards, and kale. Gently place the salmon on top of the greens. Juice the ½ lemon on the salmon. Add 1 tbsp olive oil to moisten the salmon and greens. As the salmon steams, the oil will release into the greens and the greens will protect the salmon from burning. Add a splash of Banyuls vinegar and drizzle of Herbes des Provence olive oil. Let cook until the fish is pink and flakes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Join Us Tomorrow, June 2 at the Delmar Farmers Market

We are so excited to announce that tomorrow is the start of the Delmar Farmers Market and The Cheese Traveler will be selling cheese there for a second year. Come by between the hours of 9am and 1pm to get your fantastically tasty summer cheeses (click here for directions). The Cheese Traveler will feature an array of small production farmstead and artisan cheeses, many of which are award-winning, from farms within a fifty mile radius of Delmar.

3-Corner Field Farm, Shushan, NY

Naturally Raised, Grass Fed Dairy, Sheep and Lamb

   3-Corner Field Farm is nestled in the Battenkill River Valley at the foothills of the Green Mountains on the border of New York and Vermont. They are one of the few farms in the country that milk sheep for use in the production of gourmet cheeses and yogurt. Their sheep are raised with care and respect on beautiful, organically managed pastures, and are never given hormones or unnecessary antibiotics. They are raised the old-fashioned way: outdoors, on pasture, eating natural grass, clover, and alfalfa.

Berkshire Blue, Great Barrington, MA

Handmade by Ira Grable using raw milk sourced from two small jersey cow dairies.  Crafted in the tradition of an English Stilton.  Berkshire Blue has won many international awards.

Berle Farm, Hoosick Falls, MA

 Beatrice Berle owns and operates a beautiful, 600 acre, certified organic, solar powered, 1840′s farmstead.  She hand-crafts artisan cheeses, using milk from her 6 cows.

Consider Bardwell Farm, West Pawlett, VT

Angela Miller, Russell Glover, Chris Gray, and  Peter Dixon, have revitalized the 300 acre Consider Bardwell Farm– the oldest cheesemaking cooperative in VT.  They hand-craft cheeses using goat’s milk from their 100 goat herd and cow’s milk from 30 jersey cows from neighboring Jersey Girls Farm.  Their cheeses have won numerous awards at the American Cheese Society Annual Conference and Competition

Cooperstown Cheese Company

Known iconically as the “The Red Roof 6 miles south of Cooperstown on Route 28,” Cooperstown Cheese Company handcrafts artisan cheeses from locally-sourced, raw cow’s milk. Their Toma Brand Cheeses are made from milk from Brown Swiss cows raised naturally and hormone free on Lester Tyler’s family farm, Sunny Acres Swiss. Their Jersey Girl Colby is made with grass-fed, raw milk from Autumn Valley Farm in Worcester, NY.

 Cricket Creek Farm

Located in Williamstown, MA, Cricket Creek Farm handcrafts award-winning, raw, grass-fed cows milk cheeses made by certified artisanal cheesemakers. The land is cared for organically; the farm is Certified Humane, has a bakery, and sells eggs, beef, and pork.

 Old Chatham Sheepherding Company

Produced in New York’s bountiful Hudson Valley, Old Chatham Sheepherding Company’s award-winning sheep’s milk cheese and yogurt are celebrated for their uniqueness and distinctive flavors.