Eating for Life

When fennel is fantastic

Food styling by JILL WENDHOLT SILVA/Photo by TAMMY LJUNGBLAD/The Kansas City Star
Enjoy the vibrant colors and a healthy dose of vitamin A with Roasted Fennel and Red Pepper Salad.

Love it. Hate it. Fennel seems to have that effect on people.

In the supermarket the creamy, bulb-shaped vegetable with feathery green fronds sticking out of it like Martian antennae is often mislabeled as “sweet anise.” The comparison can lead anyone who has ever drunk too much ouzo, the licorice-flavored liqueur, to just say no.

Luckily, when used raw, the flavor of fennel is milder and sweeter. It’s even less potent when roasted or braised. The Star’s recipe for Roasted Fennel and Red Pepper Salad makes a beautiful and healthful salad with a clean, fresh taste.

Fennel is rich in vitamin A and offers fair amounts of calcium, phosphorous and potassium. Red peppers contain loads of beta carotene, fiber and vitamin B6. Add mixed salad greens and drizzle with olive oil, a heart-healthy monounsaturated fat high in phytochemicals and vitamin E, and you have an impressive start to any meal.

Shopping tips: Fresh fennel is available fall through spring. Look for bulbs that do not have any brown spots. If the fronds are still attached, they should be green and fresh.

Cooking tips: If fennel is new to you, 365 Quick Tips by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine gives the lowdown on how to trim the bulb.

Step 1. Cut off stems and feathery fronds. (The fronds can be minced and used as a garnish.)

Step 2. Trim a thin slice from the base of the bulb and remove any tough or blemished outer layers of the bulb.

Step 3. Cut the bulb in half through the base and use a paring knife to cut out the pyramid-shaped piece of the core in each half. The fennel bulb can now be quartered for use in this recipe.

Make ahead: The vegetables in this recipe can be roasted ahead of time, but allow them to come to room temperature before adding dressing and assembling the salad.

Roasted fennel and red pepper salad

Makes 6 servings

1 1/2 to 2 pounds fennel bulbs (about 3 or 4 bulbs) trimmed and quartered

2 large red peppers

10 whole mushrooms

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 tablespoons Italian parsley, coarsely chopped

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 large lemon)

2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

1 clove garlic, minced

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

2 to 3 cups spring mix greens

2 tablespoons thinly shaved or grated Parmesan, optional

Place fennel in large zip-top bag. Seed peppers and cut each pepper into fourths; place in bag with fennel. Add mushrooms to bag; drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Massage vegetables to evenly distribute olive oil. Place vegetables on large baking sheet and roast at 425 degrees 25 to 30 minutes. Allow to cool slightly, then slice fennel and peppers into thin strips. Quarter mushrooms. Place cut roasted vegetables into mixing bowl. Sprinkle with Italian parsley.

Combine lemon juice, vinegar, garlic and 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Blend well with small whisk; add salt and pepper.

Drizzle dressing over roasted vegetables and toss to coat. Place salad greens on large salad platter. Using a slotted spoon, place roasted vegetables on top and sprinkle with Parmesan.

Per serving: 202 calories (73 percent from fat), 17 grams total fat (3 grams saturated), 1 milligram cholesterol, 12 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams protein, 81 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber.

Recipes developed for The Star by home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss.