Fennel is a root vegetable whose stalks resemble celery when diced. Fennel is in it’s prime during this time of year. You may have heard of fennel seeds, the seasoning commonly found in Italian sausages and baked into bread crusts; the vegetable has a similar flavor. Roasted, it takes on sweeter notes, which are complemented in this dish with orange juice soaked raisins.
This grain salad is an excellent vegetarian course if made with vegetable instead of chicken stock. The recipe below was adapted from Food52.
serves 4, cooking time 2 hours and 30 minutes, active cooking time 30 minutes
- 1/2 cup of orange juice
- 1/3 cup raisins
- 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and cored and cut into about 16 slim wedges*
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 1 1/4 cup chicken stock (or vegetable broth)
- 1 cup of pearled couscous
- 1 large shallot (or two small), minced
- 1 tablespoon sherry or red wine vinegar
- 1-2 tablespoon fennel fronds, chopped
- Soak raisins in orange juice for about 2 hours, until they plump up. Strain, and then set aside.
- Toss fennel wedges in one tablespoon of olive oil, and add salt and pepper; spread on a lined baking sheet and roast in a 350-degree oven for about 20 minutes. The edges should begin to crisp and brown, but the center of the fennel wedges should not be totally soft.
- In the meantime, toast the pine nuts on a separate pan in the oven until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
- Next, bring broth or stock to a boil over high heat; add couscous, stir, cover, and remove from heat; let rest for about 10 minutes until all of the stock is absorbed.
- While the couscous is cooking, whisk together shallots and vinegar with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add pepper and salt to taste.
- Transfer couscous to a serving bowl and fluff with fork (this step is important!). Stir in the orange-soaked raisins and most of the fennel fronds, and then toss with the vinaigrette.
- Top the dish with the pine nuts, a bit of nice sea salt and pepper, as well as any remaining fronds for garnish. Serve hot or at room temperature.
* Trimming and coring fennel is simple. The stalks–those little branches sticking out of the bulb–are not included in this dish, so slice those off. Remember to save the wispy fronds for garnish. Next, you will remove a sliver from the very base of the fennel. Then slice the fennel in half from top to bottom, and finally, you can remove the triangle-shaped core with the point of a sharp blade.
Costing around $3.20 per serving, the couscous and roasted fennel recipe is not too hard on the wallet, and certainly a healthier alternative than a Snickers bar. As mentioned above, this dish tastes great whether hot or at room temperature. For these reasons, this grain salad is the ideal way to combat sad desk lunch!