BAR HARBOR — One could argue that most vegetables are versatile but fennel is enticingly so.
That aromatic fall vegetable fits indecisive temperatures.
Is it cloudy and brisk? Put a dish of fennel in the oven to braise and warm your kitchen.
Is it sunny? Have you been working up a sweat? Make a crisp slaw with fennel and Maine apples.
Chef Michael Anderson, who owns August Moon Catering in Bar Harbor, likes to prepare fennel both of those ways.
“This braised fennel is a wonderful accompaniment to polenta,” Anderson said.
“It’s really good in soup,” he said. “It would pair nicely with any root vegetable. I like pairing fennel with roasted meat dishes.”
Try it with roasted chicken or pork chops.
“It always maintains a nice texture,” Anderson said. “It doesn’t go mushy like potatoes or carrots.”
Anderson advises that both the bulb and its licorice and anise-flavored leaves or frond can be used. He discards the tough stalks.
“It’s slightly outside the mainstream,” Anderson said of the vegetable, which is a member of the Umbellifereae family, related to parsley, carrots, dill and coriander. “A lot of people have it in their gardens this time of year.”
For a crisp fall slaw, Anderson slices one bulb and one apple.
“The thing with fennel salad is to slice it really thin,” Anderson said. Raw fennel can be tough, so you want wispy slices. This is where you would pull out your mandoline, if your spouse allows you to use one.
Toss the shaved fennel and apple with vinaigrette of olive oil, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and a dab of Dijon mustard.
You can find fennel at most grocers and farmers markets in season, which is now. Shaw’s Supermarkets labels fennel as “anise.”
“Look for a nice uniform color and no brown,” Anderson said. “It would start to brown as it got past its shelf life.”
Recipe courtesy of Michael Anderson, August Moon Catering
2 medium-sized fennel bulbs, chopped into 1/8-inch thick pieces (reserve the fronds or leafy tops for garnish)
½ yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Olive oil to sauté vegetables in skillet
½ cup broth (any will do)
½ cup white wine
1 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil for a minute. Add fennel and brown. Add rosemary, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add broth and wine. Cook for a few minutes then transfer ingredients to an oven-safe dish and cook, covered, at 300 degrees for 20 minutes. Garnish with fennel fronds.