Posts Tagged ‘ultra low-carb’

Fennel in the Garden and Kitchen; a Nose-to-Tail Herb

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Fennel carries the true taste of summer. I love fennel and always have it around, and my favorite form, the only variety that I keep these days, is the subtly metallic bronze fennel. If you want fennel bulbs you will have to grow a bulbing type, but my interest is in other parts of the plant so the bronze suits all my purposes.
The first pleasure it offers is aesthetic: this is a lovely plant to have around. The color isn’t really bronze but a soft coppery-purple, and when hung with drops from a summer rain it is nothing short of breathtaking, in a quiet way. When dry, it is furry like a cat until the stalks form, and a little later the umbels of tiny yellow-green blooms look surprisingly pretty against the darker background. It would pass muster as a front yard edible in the most exacting neighborhood.
Second, it is beautifully aromatic. I brush my hand down a frond every time I pass it to inhale the anise-y scent.
Third, it’s delicious. I can’t understand why so few people eat their bronze fennel. I admit that my main use of it is to chew up a frond while weeding or doing other garden tasks. The resiny rush is succeeded by a taste of intense sweetness and herbal licorice. I realized years ago, when going through a Greek cookbook binge, that fennel and not dill is a primary seasoning herb for horta, the greens mixture that forms a part of so many Cretan meals and snacks. A generous handful of chopped fennel fronds, saut√©ed with other aromatics, gives the right flavor to a batch of greens mixture. Chopped fronds are also an essential part of fish marinades and rubs, in my view, and can be delicious on chicken. A little dab of herb salad, made from chopped bronze fennel and chives or garlic chives and dressed with a very good vinaigrette, is good as a seasoning garnish alongside fish or chicken. Chopped fennel fronds are lovely in mayonnaise to sit atop grilled salmon, or yo dress cold fish salad. When grilling fish, consider putting the larger stems of fennel across the grill to make aromatic smoke. I love a small handful of chopped fronds in salads. This is a nose-to-tail herb, since besides using the leaves and stalks you can collect the pollen if you have enough plants (fennel pollen is a common aromatic seasoning in Tuscany,) and the seeds can also be collected for culinary use. One cookbook writer said that she made an anise-flavored pesto from blanched bronze fennel fronds, and that sounds delicious too, although I haven’t tried it yet. On days when I’ve worked late in the garden and the late sunset finds me hot and dirty and with a poor appetite from the heat, I can throw together smoked salmon crostinis with fennel:

Cut a few diagonal slices off a good baguette or, if you are ketogenic, cut a few thin slices of ketogenic coconut bread. Toast them, spread with green mayo Or your own favorite tarragon-seasoned mayonnaise, put on one thick or two thin slices of smoked wild-caught sockeye salmon, smear with some mascarpone or creme fraiche, and top each with a couple of generous pinches of ¬†chopped fennel. It takes five minutes, it’s cool and soothing, and yum.

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Incidentally, I remember reading somewhere long ago that fennel stalks coated with tallow were burned to summon good witches, and mullein stalks were used the same way to summon bad witches, unless maybe it was the other way around. So if you want to try it, you’ll need to get straight which is which. But I can say from experience that a couple of dried fennel stalks tossed on a dying fire in the fall give a lovely aromatic end to the evening that doesn’t summon anything but contentment and sleep.
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Green Mayo

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Many of us who eat ketogenic diets refer to homemade mayonnaise as “ketonnaise.” It is one of the luxuries of our very-low-carb style of eating that we can have this beautiful stuff. This time of year, the garden is full of wonderful ways to flavor it, and one of my favorite things to do with it is put a luxurious dollop on top of grilled sockeye salmon, as you see above.
You will have to make your own decision about eating raw eggs. I use my own backyard eggs, and if I am expecting to feed others, I either pasteurize the eggs in my sous-vide cooker or let my visitors make their own choices with full disclosure. Don’t ever feed raw eggs to the elderly, children, immunocompromised people, or the unsuspecting in general.
In my opinion this is best made with a Mini-prep. It gets so thick that stick blenders can’t handle it.
The basic mayo is very simple. Have 1.5 cups of oil ready. I use a light-flavored olive oil or equal parts each of full-flavored olive oil and MCT oil (a fraction of coconut oil that’s liquid at room temp.) Put four egg yolks and a teaspoon of salt in your Mini-Prep food processor. You need a small one so that the mixture reaches the blades. Start the food processor running, and very slowly drizzle in the oil. The Cuisinart Mini-prep has a little runway and hole in the lid for exactly this purpose. You will start to hear the thickening mayonnaise slap against the sides of the bowl. Last thing, put in two teaspoons of fresh lemon juice. When it’s done, turn out into a colorful bowl and put in the refrigerator for now.
Now the fun starts. What do you want it to taste like? For standard use I love a handful of chopped parsley, some tarragon, cutting celery, and a little thyme, a handful of chopped chives, a few large arugula leaves chopped, and the white part of a good-sized stalk of green garlic chopped finely. I usually add a smashed anchovy filet too. A meal that leans Mexican might want lots of cilantro and a little epazote and garlic. Somewhat Southeast Asian? Consider a little green curry paste and a goodly amount of chopped rau ram and a chile, chopped. Add your chosen herbs and fold in well. Taste to correct seasoning. The large amount of oil blunts flavors, and you may need more herbs and salt than you think.
You can put it on broiled meat, chicken, and fish, spoon some on top of grilled shrimp, dip veggie sticks in it, or if you aren’t ketogenic it is superb smeared on chunks of baguette.
Eat happily. This is an occasion for high-class piggery, not portion control. It will last a day in the fridge but, in my view, not more than that. I have read one cook online insist that it will keep safely for over a week when chilled, but I wouldn’t chance it.
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Tarragon goes crazy in late spring so let’s make use of that tender growth.