Detox with Fennel Italian-Style

Roasted Fennel and Carrot Soup

Roasted Fennel and Carrot Soup

With the holidays behind us, many of us have gone a bit overboard with the continual stream of cakes, cookies, libations and heavy meals.  If you are like me, your carb-laden body is screaming for healthier food choices; vitamin-packed options that make you feel healthier just by looking at them.  So whether it is on your resolution list or simply an opportunity to turn the page on overindulgence, many of us are starting the year by making our diet and health a priority.  But fear not – forget the starvation diets or juice-only options! Clean up your act as the Italians do by cooking up nourishing seasonal meals that are the foundation of any Italian kitchen.
 
My new year started with a craving for refreshing, crisp fennel shaved atop a crunchy salad; my body nudging me in the right direction given its amazing health benefits.  Everything from freshening your breath to softening wrinkles claims the Internet. But for me, it is fennel’s clean, bright flavor that draws me in.  Whether subtly mixed with other glorious vegetables such as in roasted fennel and carrot soup or taking center stage with caramelized citrus as with the salad below, fennel’s versatility makes cleaning up your act a simple feat.  When shaved raw on salads, the subtle licorice flavor shines on through. However, worry not if you do not like the licorice flavor, fennel takes on a slightly sweet mellow taste when cooked making it an incredibly delicious backdrop in so many recipes. 
 
As you contemplate the year ahead, be like my Italian grandmother and reach for a handful of crunchy fennel seeds to freshen your breath, calm your senses and aid your digestion.  Leave it to magical fabulous fennel to help kick the year off right.
Vi auguro a tutti un buon e prospero nuovo anno, tutti!
Michele
 
Roasted Fennel and Carrot Soup
 
Ingredients:
 
• 2 medium fennel bulbs with fronds
• 1 pound carrots, quartered lengthwise
• 1 large onion, peeled and quartered with core intact
• 3 cloves garlic, peeled and flattened
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
• Extra virgin olive oil
• 5 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
• Freshly grated Parmigiano
 
Preparation: 
 
Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  
Slice stalks from fennel bulbs.  Reserve fennel fronds for garnish. Toss stalks. Slice the bulbs in half lengthwise. Slice each half into ¼ inch slices lengthwise.  
In a large bowl, toss the fennel slices with the carrots, onion, garlic, about ½ teaspoon salt and a few grinds of freshly ground black pepper.  Drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil and toss to coat.  Spread the vegetables on a sheet pan and place in the oven to roast.  Stir occasionally.  Roast until the veggies are browned and tender.
Place the veggies in a blender with the broth and blend until smooth.  (You may need to do this in batches.)  Transfer to a saucepan.   If soup is too thick, add water to thin. Simmer until soup is warmed through.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper. 
Serve soup drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, fennel fronds and freshly grated Parmigiano. 
 
Caramelized Fennel and Orange SaladCaramelized Fennel and Orange Salad
 
Ingredients:
 
• Zest ½ orange 
• 1 navel orange
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 1 tablespoon sugar
• Extra virgin olive oil
• 1 medium fennel bulb 
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper
 
Preparation: 
 
Remove the peel and pith from the oranges.  Slice crosswise into ½ inch rounds. Remove any seeds from the rounds if you can.
 
In a skillet large enough to hold the orange slices in a single layer, melt the butter over medium-low heat until melted and foaming.   Sprinkle with the sugar. Turn the heat to medium high. Once the sugar is melted and starts to caramelize (about 3 minutes), lower the heat and add in the orange slices in a single layer. Cook until the orange slice begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side.  Gently place the slices on a plate along with any juices. 
 
Cut the fennel bulb in half lengthwise.  Slice each half into ¼ slices lengthwise.  Reserve any fronds for garnish.
 
Drizzle olive oil in the same skillet to coat bottom (about 1 tablespoon) over medium-high heat.  Add in the fennel slices and cook until browned on each side, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
 
Remove the fennel slices and layer on your serving plate.  Add the orange slices on top and drizzle with any juices.  Top with freshly ground black pepper, fennel fronds, orange zest and a healthy drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.  Serve!
 
Joe and Michele Becci are a brother and sister team who love all things Italian. Together, from opposite coasts, they co-author the blog OurItalianTable.com. 
 
 

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