Fennel Mania: Fennel-Crusted Potatoes And Orecchiette With Fennel Pesto

Fennel is one of those herbs that has always been used in my kitchen on a fairly regular basis. I toss the seeds into spice mixes or masalas where it helps build gorgeous flavor for curries, although it also loses its individual flair. But I was a stranger to the delicious fennel bulb with its frizzy, feathery, bright-green fronds until I moved here to the United States.

To anyone who has not eaten fennel, this is a flavor to die for. I especially like roasting fennel – both the seeds and the bulbs– because that’s when its deliciously licorice-y flavor mellows into rich sweetness. Heaven for the tastebuds.

Apart from its wonderful flavor, fennel is also prized for its digestive properties. In India, it is common practice to chew on fennel seeds after a heavy meal because not only does it help digest the food but it also freshens the breath. If you’ve been to an Indian restaurant here in the United States, you’ve seen those little dishes with fennel seeds right next to the toothpicks as you make your way out. Now you know why  they’re there.

Today, I wanted to share with you two recipes I made over the last week, both featuring different parts of the versatile fennel. The first recipe is for Fennel-Crusted Potatoes, a go-to recipe for rushed weeknights when I want a quick side dish without the effort of standing over a skillet and stirring and mixing. I let the toaster oven do most of the work for me here.

The second recipe is also an excellent one for weeknights: the fennel pesto is made with the green leaves/fronds that sprout from the fennel bulb, and the bulb goes into the toaster oven (along with some onions and red peppers and a dash of balsamic vinegar). Everything gets mixed up with some walnuts and some ear-shaped, whole-wheat pasta and bam! You have a dish you couldn’t be prouder of in less time than you can learn to pronounce “orecchiette.”

Here are the recipes. Enjoy, all!

Fennel-Crusted Potatoes

(Makes 4 servings)

Ingredients

3 medium potatoes (I use any kind I have on hand), cut into a 3/4-inch dice

2 tsp fennel seeds, coarsely powdered

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

2 tsp olive oil

Salt to taste

Place all the ingredients in a baking dish and toss together to coat all the potatoes.

Bake in a 400-degree oven about 30-40 minutes or until nicely golden-brown and tender when pierced with a fork (stir halfway if desired).

Easy.

(Nutrition estimate per serving: Calories 143, Fat 2.4 grams, Cholesterol 0 mg, Dietary Fiber 3.5 grams, Protein 3.2 grams, Vitamin C 52.5 percent)

Orecchiette with Fennel Pesto

Ingredients:

1/2 pound whole-wheat pasta (you can use any small-shaped pasta here, including penne or even macaroni or orzo. I used orecchiette which is one of my favorite pastas). Cook according to package directions and drain.

For the roasted vegetables:

1 fennel bulb, cut out the leaves and set aside for the pesto.

1 red bell pepper

1 sweet onion

Dice all the vegetables into 1-inch chunks and place in a baking dish. Add:

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tsp olive oil

Salt to taste

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Roast the vegetables in a 400-degree oven, stirring a couple of times during cooking, until they are fork-tender and coated with a balsamic glaze. This took me about 35 minutes.

For the pesto:

Leaves reserved from the fennel bulb, chopped into smaller pieces

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional, but great both nutritionally and for that cheesy flavor)

1/4 cup lightly toasted pumpkin seeds

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp ground black pepper

Salt to taste

Place all the ingredients in a food processor (except the olive oil) and process until coarsely powdered. With the motor running, pour in the olive oil until you have an even paste.

Place the pasta, roasted veggies and the pesto in a bowl. Add:

1/4 cup chopped, toasted walnuts.

Mix well and serve immediately.

(Tip: For an even more fennel-y flavor, add 1 tsp lightly toasted fennel seeds to the pesto)

**
Hungry for more?

Roasted Potatoes With Cilantro and Lemon
Whole-Wheat Gnocchi With Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
Pappardelle Pasta With Green Peppers And Asparagus Frittata
Peppery Mushroom-Potato Stir-Fry

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

Comments

  1. says

    Fennel seeds in anything potato is my fave.. fennel works wonders for all crazy nausea as well! :)

    I havent tried any other part of the plant, so the fennel pesto is now on my to try list!
    Take care and have a great weekend!

  2. Jeannie says

    Hmmm. Did you know that fennel grows wild as an invasive plant in California? My Italian auntie made us go on trips to collect it from the hills when she would come and visit us from Chicago. We still have a little fennel plant that she made us dig up and bring back tom the house.

    Anyway…although fennel is non-native and crowds out some native plants, it is also an excellent host plant for native butterflies, who like to lay their eggs on it. So there’s some good with the bad, unlike with other non-native species.

    I can’t wait to try these recipes!

  3. says

    I grew fennel bulbs in my garden last year and ended up giving them away to friends… I had no idea what to do with them! Now I am looking forward to growing them again this year so that I can try this yummy looking recipe!
    Thanks so much for sharing it!
    ~ Michelle ~

  4. says

    wow…amazing!

    i just got done making a mango dessert recipe AND a roasted potato recipe. To be blogged about this week.

    New to your blog and saw your mango cupcakes and now these potatoes.

    Woman, YOU CAN COOK! I love finding blog where the person can really cook, not just open up a can of beans and call it “amazing”

    :)

  5. says

    Love the fennel-y potatoes, kinda like a chaat!
    orecchiette- orecchiette .. Easier tried than pronounced ! LOL.
    looks gorgeous. I have never tried nutritional yeast, glad u mention the taste. To people like me, it helps from otherwise being shy of unknown items.
    How is Pubm?

  6. says

    Richa, Thanks!

    Jeanne, No, I had no idea that it grows wild in California. Thanks for sharing that– makes me wish I could go fennel-foraging! :)

    Michelle, Divya, Julia, Rajani, Samarpita: Thanks

    Anna, that soup sounds absolutely delicious.

    Averie, thank you for your kind words! And welcome :)

    Rajee, Thanks!

    Manasi, Thanks. And I used to run shy of nutritional yeast too, but it really makes a great cheese substitute and is great for you too because it’s packed with the B vitamins.
    Pubm’s holding steady, but the news about her is overall not so great. Her tumor’s really invasive and the doctors are asking us to be prepared for the worst. She’s started chemo but there is only a 1 in 10 chance that it will work. I just wish there was something I could do to make my little girl’s illness just go away!

  7. says

    Those potatoes looks golden and awesome – I usually parboil the potatoes before roasting them and they never come out so crispy. Must try this!

  8. says

    Today we had this without the pasta – added a big romanesco zucchini to the veggies, mixed with the pesto & served with the potatoes = fennel 3 ways! It was so yummy. Thanks so much for your blog and fab recipes – love them!! I put your link on my bookmark toolbar, so I can easily check in with you.

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