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Calling all fennel and baby bok choy lovers

Ok people. I finally picked up some baby bok choy (about 2 pounds It seemed cheap). I also picked up 2 bulbs of fennel.

I haven't cooked either, yet. However I did taste some of each raw. I wasn't impressed. The green leafy part of the baby bok choy seemed pretty bitter to me and the white part seemed pretty tasteless to me. The green stalk of the fennel tasted pretty much like expensive celery. The white part of the fennel tasted maybe a tiny tiny bit like licorice... maybe.

Give me some good recipes for this stuff. I don't want to be unfair. I want to cook it and will report back.

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  1. I don't cook my fennel...

    I use a mandoline to slice it REALLY thin. I then use the same blade to thinly slice green apple.

    A very simple vinaigrette is made with white wine vinegar, olive oil, chopped capers, chopped shallots, and a tablespoon of Dijon mustard (put it all in a small jar and shake vigorously).

    Toss it all together and you have a GREAT salad!

    2 Replies
    1. re: CarrieWas218

      I'm not a huge fennel fan, but I do love it in a salad. I do sliced fennel, supremed oranges, kalamata olives and grilled tuna with a a bit of salt, olive oil, and orange juice squeezed from the sliced off ends of the pre-supremes orange.

      Bok Choy is pretty tasteless, but I use it as part of my leafy green rotation, stir fried. It bulks it up and carries the flavor of the sauce or other ingredients. It gives me a break from my main three greens -- chard, kale, and spinach.

      1. re: maxie

        maxie, that is a super salad -- though i don't use the tuna (which sounds like a great match for the other flavors in the salad).

        hank, it is now citrus season, so try maxie's shaved fennel salad, and use some beautiful blood oranges or navels.

    2. From my experience Baby Bok Choy will take on the flavors of whatever you cook it in. I usually stir-fry it with some onions, garlic, and red pepper in vegetable oil. I'll add some soy sauce or Hoisin, along with some sweet chili sauce, toward the end. It's never tasted bitter to me, but the closest I ever get to eating it without something like the above preparation is in something like Won Ton soup, where it's picking up a whole different set of flavors..

      1. Fennel I cut in quarters and roast with chicken. It can also caramelize like an onion, great with sausage. I like raw fennel. Italians serve it raw during holidays.

        Baby bok choy, use in noodle stir fry, finely chopped in egg rolls and in brothy soups. You may treat it like a swiss chard cousin. Saute with garlic, finish with lemon. Raw, no thanks.

        1 Reply
        1. re: CCSPRINGS

          Raw fennel used as an digestive after dinner is nice. Personally, I'll take a small bit of annisette for that purpose.
          As to using it in a recipe, I like to shave it thin and then supreme orange slices, make a vinagrette from the juice...a nice light salad.

        2. I'm sorry but raw fennel is just mediocre at best. I'd rather have a thin slice of cabbage or celery and I'm not that fond of celery or cabbage. At least they aren't $3 per pound.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Hank Hanover

            You've tried raw fennel ONCE and you're writing it off? You certainly don't HAVE to like it, but all the fennel I've had was much more than a 'little' like licorice. No one's forcing you...... but maybe a second source or season? If you don't like licorice or anise, then forget it.

            1. re: Midlife

              I don't like licorice or anise, but I bizarrely LOVE raw fennel. As in I'll make a salad of nothing but slices of fennel dressed with a little vinaigrette.

              One of my favorite raw veggies ever -- I keep talking about cooking with it, but it never survives that long.

              1. re: Midlife

                I like licorice fine. The stuff I had didn't taste like it. My wife said she could taste it slightly. I don't think it tasted like licorice in the slightest.

                I'm only trying it because lots and lots of people on chowhound swear by it. I probably will taste test what I got again before I cook it. I am leaning toward slicing and sauteing some, braising some and roasting some. So far... I'm not impressed with how it tastes raw. It's not particularly good or bad raw. Based solely on fennel's raw taste, I wouldn't recommend it. It seems very expensive for very little taste.

                1. re: Hank Hanover

                  All I'm suggesting is that vegetables are not automatically going to taste exactly the same all the time, in every season, and from every source. This could just be something with your palates, but it could also be the two specific bulbs you bought.

                  1. re: Midlife

                    It is early in the season. I may try again in a few weeks.

            2. I love baby bok choy with either black bean or oyster sauce, garlic, sauteed. Sometimes with mushrooms.

              The fennel is great in a salad with orange, and definitely has a licorice taste. Fennel is wonderful in cioppino. The simplest and best cioppino recipe is the Giada DeLaurentis one. You can make the stock and freeze it and then add the fresh seafood when you want cioppino that night.

              How much did you pay for each bulb of fennel? Around here it is at least $3.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Barbara76137

                I paid $2.98 per pound this afternoon. I got 2 bulbs. I'm sorry but I'm not sure what the total was but it seems to make sense that it was pretty close to 2 pounds. I'm in Austin, Texas.

              2. Roasted baby bok choy is delicious: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/roa... . It's also a standby in my stir fries, where the wilted leaves and crunchy stalks are great for texture.

                I like fennel better cooked than raw; try it instead of celery in a soup or stew, or braise it with your favourite aromatics until it's silky soft. (Then again, I wouldn't pay more than $2/bulb for it -- this means I can get it 7 times out of 10 at one or another store around here.)

                1. Hank, I've been on a baby bok choy bender for about a year and steaming it is my favorite way. Bamboo steamer, splash of sesame oil and enjoy. I like a tender bulb so maybe 8-10 mins in a steaming setup.

                  Fennel I enjoy roasted with olive oil, kosher salt, black pepper and a splash of balsamic vinegar just until the large bulb in fork tender.

                  1. Scallops are outstanding sauteed with a splash of Pernod, which is anise, not fennel but very similar. Lobster bisque is typically made with fennel if I am not mistaken.

                    1. stir fry the bok choy with a bit of oil and minced ginger, then finish with a splash of soy sauce. hate typing on this ipad...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Claudette

                        good tip -- also can use chili oil.

                      2. In a soup or roasted with chicken --

                        1. Try the fennel in soup for another layer of flavor. I caramelize fennel and onion and puree with roasted eggplant, tomato, and bell pepper and some broth. Finish with cream or not. Yum.

                        2. Also, as mentioned above, try fennel roasted with chicken, like this recipe (just add fresh fennel cut in chunks in with the chicken and tomatoes, onions, olives). I use bone-in skin-on thighs for this.

                        http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

                        1. I use fennel in place of celery, and baby/full size bok choy in place of cabbage. It works in most dishes for me. I'm lucky that I can get both for 99 cents a lb so I use them often.

                          1. Caramelized fennel is great instead of caramelized onions. Put on a pizza or with sausage over pasta. Good in braised as well. I think there is a lobster or chicken pot pie recipe that Ina Garten makes that uses fennel but I haven't tried it yet.

                            4 Replies
                            1. re: melpy

                              Carmelized fennel sounds great! I will have to try that. Thanks for sharing the idea.

                              1. re: 4plates2table

                                I've sliced potatoes thinly with a mandoline and baked them, along with thinly sliced red onions and fennel. I punch it up with a little crushed fennel seed, lots of black pepper, some olive oil and salt. Half oil, half butter would be nice too. Once baked until soft, I garnish with the fennel fronds. It's pretty yummy and the fennel seed compensates nicely when the fennel bulbs are a little too subtly flavored, which happens. You could definitely grate some Parm Regg over the top and put under the broiler for a moment. Yum!

                                I like baby bok choy with big taste profiles, such as squid with XO sauce, or South-East Asian shrimp or fish pastes. Spicy, punchy, garlicky flavors go really well with bok choy. Another simple way to treat them is in a soup. The baby bok choys can be halved or quartered, or even separated into individual leaves. The bitterness is gone after a simple blanching for 1 minute, but a little bitterness is part of the taste profile, so don't overcook or it will just taste waterlogged.

                                1. re: 1sweetpea

                                  Sweetpea, the fennel dish sounds delicious!

                                  1. re: 1sweetpea

                                    i agree with sweetpea about the big bold flavors to go with bok choy. xo with squid and bok choy sounds great.

                              2. A bit off topic - but for those that garden.

                                Fennel is a beautiful,tall, fern like plant - I've successfully grown it in Calgary - high altitudes = cool summer nights.

                                4 Replies
                                1. re: rosetown

                                  It's so warm here I found the fennel growing back in the pot on the porch the other day! Among other things. But it's a great addition to stews, and don't forget to use the fronds too.

                                  1. re: rosetown

                                    Very tough plant, easy to grow. Swallowtails love it.

                                    1. re: CCSPRINGS

                                      I had no idea how tough this plant is. Tnx

                                    2. re: rosetown

                                      It grows well here in Northern California during the winter. My daughter will lean over the plant and just graze on some of the greenery that tastes like licorice! We also love the flowers that give you a little pow of anise flavor. The stuff from the store or even the farmer's market really doesn't come close to what you get out of your own garden.

                                    3. Have you tried the white part of the fennel? The green part is usually discarded.

                                      Here is a salad our family makes at Easter. Dama Bianca. It is fresh and light. We have it as a side to a roast or braised pork.
                                      http://www.gourmet.com/recipes/2000s/...

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: adido

                                        Adido, I tried that salad recently and really liked it. Made it without the mozzarella. Since then I found Rachel Ray's Fennel and Celery Salad and I like it even better. She calls for white balsamic vinegar which I have yet to try so I subbed champagne vinegar. It gets better overnight.
                                        http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ra...

                                      2. I make anisetta.

                                        Shave your fennel as thin as you can (if you have a Benriner or a mandoline this is easier, but I do it with a chef's knife too). Put it in a bowl. If you have a little celery or maybe some cauliflower, shave that too, toss it in the bowl.

                                        Then mince up a little bit of shallot, or maybe a clove of garlic, and throw it in the bowl. Add quite a bit of good olive oil, the juice of a lemon, some chopped-however-you-like parsley, a little basil if you have it (dried works too), salt and pepper.

                                        Now take two wooden spoons and mash the crap out of it. Seriously, put the hurt on the salad bowl. Bruise it. Now let it sit for an hour, right out there on the counter. Then eat it.

                                        1. Stick to your guns, Hank! Don't let anyone browbeat you into "liking" fennel. It is the bastard step-cousin of celery, with all the disadvantages of celery plus the added flavor of Good n' Plenty candy left behind the couch since 1973. Foul, nasty, evil stuff.

                                          Bok Choy, on the other hand, is fantastic, but I wouldn't eat it raw. The other suggestions already posted are great. Treat it as you would any other quick-cooking cabbagey green, or like chard or mustard greens.

                                          14 Replies
                                          1. re: acgold7

                                            I simmer my baby bok choy whole in a mixture of coconut milk, pico de gallo, and a little fish sauce.

                                            And celery is the boring accountant cousin of fennel. If your fennel tastes like Good 'n Plenty, you're doing it wrong.

                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                              I've never voluntarily done fennel. I won't have it in my house. I've had it forced on me in plenty of restaurants, though, raw and cooked, plain and heavily dressed. I've never once had it where it didn't ruin the entire dish.

                                              But that's just MHO. Others -- nearly everybody, it seems -- will disagree. As you might suspect, I also hate anise, tarragon, ouzo, anisette, aquavit and especially Pernod. I can't order a dish that features Bearnaise sauce because it literally makes me sick.

                                              1. re: acgold7

                                                Wait, what?
                                                Bearnaise isn't suppose to have an anise flavor to it...??? Lots of fresh herbs, but anise/fennel isn't one of them.

                                                1. re: sunshine842

                                                  Proper Béarnaise uses tarragon, which has a faint herbal anise scent to it.

                                                  I grew up brushing my teeth with anise-flavoured toothpaste, which means I'm an adult who goes through a bottle of pastis a month.

                                                  1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                    D U..... do you know what else might be going on with Tarragon (or whatever else is in Bearnaise sauce)? I often have a violent intestinal (;o]) reaction to Bearnaise sauce and have thought it's the tarragon. It's the only sauce/herb I have that reaction to except for certain types of curry.

                                                    1. re: Midlife

                                                      Yes, for me it's the tarragon. I had this reaction before I knew there was tarragon in it, and then had the same reaction over a dish of steamed veg with tarragon, before I knew what was in it as well. Only by tracing the ingredients backwards was I able to figure out that's what it was. Can't explain it, but the merest whiff makes me violently ill. Funny because I actually don't dislike the flavor....

                                                      1. re: Midlife

                                                        I get the same reaction from rosemary, unless it's just a pinch. Glad that fad is passing.

                                                    2. re: sunshine842

                                                      Tarragon is the *only* herb in Bearnaise. If it's got lots of fresh herbs, then it's not Bearnaise -- it's an herbed hollandaise.

                                                    3. re: acgold7

                                                      We are kindred spirits, acgold7! I feel about the entire ghastly licorice flavor clan the way vampires feel about garlic. I extend my ban to cilantro and even parsley. They don't have a huge anise-y presence, but it's there, and it's repellent. Doesn't make me ill, though.

                                                      I get big bunches of baby bok choi at the Asian market, where it's often as low as 49 cents a pound. There's a lot of grit trapped at the base of the stalks so ample rinsing is needed. I usually chop it up and saute with onion and garlic. Then I either add soy sauce or go in the smothered greens direction - chicken broth, balsamic vinegar, red pepper flakes. Either way, it cooks down dramatically, just like chard, kale, etc.

                                                  2. re: acgold7

                                                    Acgold7, I assume you dislike Sambuca and Uzo also, right?

                                                    Good n' Plenty was one of my least favorite candies. They work great for sling shot ammo.

                                                    1. re: CCSPRINGS

                                                      Yeah, not my favorite drinks... and yet there's a thread below about appreciating all these licorice flavors, so I know I'm in the minority here....

                                                      1. re: acgold7

                                                        Glad you posted your difficulties with fennel. Minority or not - I had no idea that some had major problems. For me it's offal - doesn't make me ill - just kicks in uncontrollable gag reflexes. Nothing I can do about, and believe me, I have tried.

                                                        1. re: acgold7

                                                          and it is an EXCELLENT thread, LOL.

                                                          1. re: alkapal

                                                            That's the one you started, alkapal? There was a great recipe and I think I got it there, for fennel in honey and mustard that someone said they got from their friend in Israel. I made it for Christmas and it was delicious, just looked quickly but couldn't find it now. (I do have it in my recipe box) I think I also have a very simple recipe for fennel the way Michaelangelo made it too, apparently he liked to have major dinner parties and was somewhat of a cook.

                                                    2. Well, I just sliced half a bulb and sauteed it gently in butter and olive oil and a little salt and pepper. I'm sure it would have been better with garlic but I wanted to let the fennel stand on it's own. I tried some as soon as it was soft and then I tried it again once it was caramelized. It was pretty good that way, especially caramelized. I will say that I suspect auto parts would taste pretty good sauteed in butter and olive oil but still it was good. My eyes kept telling me it was onions but the flavor was completely different. After trying some, the wife suggested it would be good in stirfry.

                                                      I did try some more raw from the interior of the bulb. It still only tasted slightly of licorice/anise... very slightly.

                                                      I took the other half of the bulb and rubbed some extra virgin olive oil on it and sprinkled some salt and pepper on it (fairly heavily with pepper) and wrapped it in aluminum foil and put it in a 350 F oven. I will take it out after 30 minutes and check it for tenderness. I suspect it will be done.

                                                      1. The roasted fennel was pretty good and I could actually taste the licorice flavor. I liked it. It was pretty good. My wife and grown son didn't care for it so I probably won't cook it that way again. I think I will have try braising it next.

                                                        I have avoided using big flavors like garlic with it because I wanted to taste the fennel.

                                                        So far my overall impression is that it is expensive for something with very little flavor. I may use it again but I think the price will have to come down to about $1 per pound which is a little more than I paid for the baby bok choy.

                                                        I still haven't decided how to cook the bok choy.

                                                        7 Replies
                                                        1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                          Gotta commend you for giving fennel a try. You probably got off to a bad start by tasting the raw stalk. The bulb has the most flavor either raw or cooked, The fronds are a wonderful garnish. As I mentioned earlier, I can't wait to try 1sweetpea's fennel & potato recipe. Maybe your wife & son would like that.

                                                          But, I agree with you about the cost. I've been holding off on making cioppino since the $3 I'd spend on a bulb of fennel alone can almost make an entire pot of another soup.

                                                          1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                            Hank, how much did it cost, if you don't mind my asking? Around here it grows wild (though the flavour of wild fennel is much, much, MUCH stronger than cultivated) and the price per bulb is usually $1-$1.50 or so.

                                                            1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                              It was $2.98 per pound. I think it was at least $2.50 per bulb.

                                                            2. re: Hank Hanover

                                                              Next time I would not put the fennel bulb in foil before roasting; part of the appeal is the golden brown it gets when roasted uncovered.

                                                              Did you notice the recipes on the fennel thread you started a few years back?

                                                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/724278

                                                              In the interim years since that thread, I hope you have discovered the many uses of stale bread!

                                                              1. re: erica

                                                                I had forgotten about that thread. I was interested in all the hoo haa generated by fennel. I still hadn't tried it until a few days ago because it is very expensive here but my curiosity finally got to me.

                                                                I still don't have much use for stale bread or panzanella salads or salads in general. I don't even like bread loaves that are supposed to be crusty. I don't even have my sandwiches at Subway toasted because it makes the bread hard. In short, I think bread should have a soft crust.

                                                                1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                  Aw, come on and fess up. Almost two years later we're questioning fennel again? You're the head of the Anti-Fennel Coalition. Right? ;o]]]]]]]

                                                                  1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                    Hank, I think you get full props for coming back and giving it a more than fair shot.

                                                                    Pity it's pricey - when it's in season here, I put it in every salad and eat a lot of it out of hand because it's cheap.

                                                              2. I roast the fennel bulb (you can discard the stalk or save it for stock) with grape tomatoes. Remove the core and just slice the fennel bulb then toss with olive oil and salt and pepper. Add a couple of handfuls of grape tomatoes and roast. Before you serve it add some lemon zest and a few of the fennel fronds for color.

                                                                the fronds are the feathery green bits on the stalk, you just use them like a finishing herb - chop them up a little

                                                                1 Reply
                                                                1. re: Kater

                                                                  I do the same -- roasted fennel and grape tomatoes, with some olives and bone-in skin-on chicken breasts. Like Kater, I just toss this with olive oil, salt, pepper. Ultra.simple! Ultra.delicious! Now I am going to try just the vegetables, too.

                                                                2. there is a huge fennel thread i started a while back. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/576330

                                                                  baby bok choy needs to be sauteed with some good asian pastes/sauces, in my opinion (oyster sauce, black bean sauce, chili/garlic sauce). also baby bok choy is fine in a good strong soup. best prices are at asian marts, obviously -- QUITE a bit cheaper than regular grocery store chains.

                                                                  fennel is lovely raw and cooked. i especially love it in salads and in gratins. it is also delicious as a pizza topping.

                                                                  i never have found the greens to be flavorful. you can poach or steam a fish with those fronds. fennel prices vary WIDELY -- one store i frequent has it $2.49 for a nice big double-bulb (giant). another store chain has it for that PER POUND -- nearly double the price (harris teeter).

                                                                  ps, just remembered fennel is always good in cioppino and dishes with fish or shellfish with tomato sauces….to be amplified with ouzo (YUMMMY) or other anise-flavored liqueur. http://www.foodsubs.com/LiqueurAnise....

                                                                  1. just remembered, baby bok choy is good as a dipper for my adored knorr's spinach-veg dip in a bread bowl. ;-)). the little natural scoop formed by each leaf is perfect. oooh, i'm just thinking that a wonton filling would be good to cook, then use the bok choy as a "spoon"

                                                                    1. A few years ago we attended a Book and The Cook show near Philadelphia. Wegmans had a booth with chefs and they were handing out seared scallops with baby bok choy topped with a spicy orange sauce. I was hooked! Eventually I bypassed the scallops part and went with just the baby bok choy - quartering it, steaming it and topping it with their spicy orange sauce (warmed). They blanch it in their recipe:

                                                                      http://www.wegmans.com/webapp/wcs/sto...

                                                                      I'm not sure where you are located. If Wegmans is not available you may be able to find a reasonable substitute for the sauce. Wegmans now titles it as Asian Classics General Tso's Spicy Orange Sauce - http://www.wegmans.com/webapp/wcs/sto...

                                                                      A search in their recipe section for baby bok choy provided 11 recipes.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: geppetto

                                                                        Thanks for the Wegman's recipe link. I made this for lunch today, using pork strips instead of scallops. I had some Trader Joe's Gen'l Tso's sauce on hand to drizzle over it, and it was great. A nice departure from adding the sauce to the pan where it gets reduced down too much for me.

                                                                        I couldn't wrap my mind around the recipe instructions though. After blanching the bok choy, it never gets brought back up to temperature. I went ahead and blanched the bok choy while the pork was cooking, then drained and served it hot. It tasted a bit water-logged, so I'd sauté it briefly next time, but the basics for a quick and satisfying meal is all right there if you aren't looking for fancy.

                                                                      2. I braised some with garlic in a little chicken stock last night. It was delicious.

                                                                        Here's a link to a post I made about fennel soup, which is my favorite way to eat fennel.

                                                                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8262...

                                                                        1. I make a fennel salad with mandarines olive oil salt and pepper and a dust some fennel pollen over it all. Wonderful!

                                                                          1. It's been a while since I started this thread. I think my final conclusion on fennel is.... it's alright. What can I say. Most of the time it is too expensive for being an OK vegetable. At the peak of it's season and it is relatively cheap, it can be used for a little variety. It is never super cheap like celery or something but it gets down there.

                                                                            For a salad, I would rather peel a cucumber, slice it in half, remove the seeds and slice thin.

                                                                            Baby bok choy and all the other cabbages can be used in several ways and are all pretty cheap. I think they are more useful and cheaper than fennel will ever be.

                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                            1. re: Hank Hanover

                                                                              Too funny... I just bought a bulb of fennel and a bulb of celery at the same stand at my farmers market and they were the same price... so now I'm asking, cheap fennel or expensive celery? (They were both $1.50.)

                                                                              1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                                                                I'd never think of spending that for celery, but I'd kill for that price on fennel!

                                                                                1. re: Barbara76137

                                                                                  It grows wild here, and while the wild kind isn't the beautiful bulbs like Florence fennel and is stronger-tasting, the tender parts of the stalk work nicely.

                                                                            2. I said somewhere upthread that I'd yet to have cooked fennel....

                                                                              Some friends had us over for dinner not too long ago - she put some nice thick fish fillets on a bed of sliced fennel and halved cherry tomatoes, then put a layer of fennel over the top of the fish. The fish steamed in its fennel blanket, the fennel mellowed just a little, and the cherry tomatoes added a really nice sweet note to it all.

                                                                              It was delicious.

                                                                              1. Baby bok choy is one of my favorite veggies these days. An old standby for lunch is a re-creation of a dish I used to buy at one of those Chinese restaurants with a walk-up express lunch counter, Chicken with Baby Bok Choy (creative name, eh?). I don't have a real recipe for it—I just braise halved BBC in about a cup of chicken broth seasoned with oyster sauce and tamari, then poach finely sliced chicken breast in the liquid once the BBC is about half-cooked, perhaps 2 or 3 minutes later. Then just thicken it up with a cornstarch slurry. Served over plain or fried rice, it makes a quick and delicious meal, especially when cooking for one.

                                                                                I've also made the Crisp Braised Bok Choy at the link below, and it was delicious:

                                                                                http://withforkandknife.com/2011/07/2...

                                                                                1. Baby bok choy, broken into separate leaves, is fantastic for elevating a tub of ramen ;) Add egg, black vinegar, and sesame oil and you'll forget it came from a crispy packet!

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: Harmy

                                                                                    I do this all the time with the frozen bowls of Shrimp Won Ton soup my wife likes. I also add mushrooms and a bit of sweet Chili sauce.