I am no longer anise/licorice-averse, thanks to accidentally buying anise-flavored toothpaste in France a few years ago and getting used to the flavor. However, it's usually not the first flavor that comes to my mind. I see fennel bulbs at the store a lot, and they look so pretty with their feathery green fronds, but I've never been blown away by a fennel recipe. I find anise to be an often-strange flavor for savory dishes. I saw this fennel-tomato soup recipe in a recent Vegetarian Times and decided to make it. We un-veg-ified it by using real sausage Jon had gotten on sale, and it was my first time to actually cook meat myself. I had to keep reminding myself that I shouldn't touch it and then other food without washing my hands and cutting board, and that it actually mattered if it got cooked well enough. Luckily, despite my lack of meat safety expertise, we didn't get food poisoning! It was a nice soup. We might decrease the tomatoes next time because Jon isn't wild about tomato-based soups. The sausage was pretty great in it, and the combination of fennel bulb and fennel seed was nice.
Since we only used part of our fennel for the soup, I made up a beet-fennel salad to go with it. I didn't pick beets for any particular reason, except that we had one in the fridge that needed using. I made a clementine vinaigrette to go with it because we had just bought a bag of clementines, and I thought citrus would pair well with fennel. It was a good salad, with great crunch and an interesting mix of flavors.
These were both good, but I don't know that I'm really a fennel convert yet. I think there are just vegetables out there I'd rather have, so like radishes, fennel will probably be a "seldom" food.
Beet-fennel salad with goat cheese and clementine vinaigrette
1 beet, boiled, peeled, and sliced
2 cups fennel, thinly sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
Juice of one clementine
1 tsp cider vinegar
A pinch or two of dried thyme
Arrange fennel and beets on a plate in as artful a manner as you desire. Sprinkle with goat cheese and drizzle with vinaigreete.