I get tired of using the same vegetables over and over again in dishes – peas, green beans, corn – they taste great, but I need a little variety in my life! Enter two new vegetables that are quickly making their way to the top of my list: fennel and leeks. I was very intimidated the first time I purchased them at the store, not knowing how to cut, clean, or prepare them – but they were ingredients in two dishes I wanted to make so I plunged in headfirst!
First up – fennel. I shouldn’t be surprised that I love this vegetable, considering it contains many of the same flavorings as anise, which is behind the black licorice jelly beans I covet every Easter! Fennel comes in bulbs (often two that are connected) with large, feathery, leafy fronds emerging from the top of the bulbs. I have never eaten the leaves, although they are edible; the white bulbs have a less pungent flavor that does not overtake a dish. Rachael Ray has two dishes that made me fall in love with fennel: Grilled Skirt Steak and Orzo With the Works (p. 252, 365: No Repeats) and My Friend Frank’s Favorite Chicken (p. 138, 30-Minute Meals). She also has a Fennel, Sausage, and Potato Stoup recipe on her Every Day With Rachael Ray site that I’m dying to try!
Next up – leeks. I always thought of leeks as a vegetable your mom would force you to eat (even though I am part of the minority crowd that enjoys brussels sprouts). Their light, oniony flavor is actually refreshing – if you can get past the time-consuming cleaning process (soaking in water until the grit has washed away). Rachael Ray’s refreshing, light Shrimp Primavera With Asparagus, Peas, and Leeks (p. 46, 2-4-6-8 Great Meals) is a great summer supper. I cooked it for 12 people during our beach vacation – serve it up with a side salad and some white wine, and it’s delicious!
In doing research for this post I came across this recipe for Red-Pepper Fennel Soup With Pita Chips, which includes both fennel AND leeks! The best of both worlds 🙂