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Roasting fish on fennel stalks reduces waste

My fondness for fennel, it’s true, far eclipses many cooks’ familiarity with this vegetable.

Nearly 70 mentions of fennel have popped up in this blog over the past 12 years. And it was around the time I started writing The Whole Dish that I was just beginning to experiment with fennel in my kitchen.

I’ve long known fennel can be used in some of the same cooked applications as onion. Its raw texture imparts interest and freshness, particularly in winter. But I’ve more recently come to realize that fennel’s substitution for celery is perhaps one of its most endearing aspects.

I do not like celery under the majority of circumstances. I’ll incorporate it as very commonly directed in soups and stews with its classic onion and carrot companions. But when I lack celery, which is fairly often, I substitute fennel stalks for making broth. Many such recipes of European origin call for both celery and fennel.

Then I started finely mincing fennel stalks and adding them to dishes that called for raw celery. One of my favorite adaptations to date is from the cookbook “Jamie’s Italy” for a Pasta and Chickpeas recipe (see the e-edition) that uses a fennel stalk in place of a celery rib. Appropriate, given that fennel enjoys some of its widest appreciation in Italy.

And using the stalks for more than flavoring stock, only to be discarded, is progress in my waste-reduction pursuits. The previous recipe posted to this blog for Vegan Lentil Salad does just that. Here’s another, courtesy of Tribune News Service, that uses fennel stalks in a creative yet functional way for broiling fish.

Any firm-fleshed white fish would work here. I’ll likely use some of the wild-caught Oregon rockfish in my freezer. I also love the idea of intensifying the flavor of cherry tomatoes — often bland purchased in wintertime from grocers — by roasting and tossing with Kalamata olives.

Broiled Striped Bass With Tomatoes and Fennel

1 1/2 pounds skinless striped bass fillet, or other firm-fleshed white fish

2 teaspoons grated garlic (from 2 to 3 large cloves)

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon, about 2 teaspoons

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided

3 tablespoon olive oil, divided

1 large bulb fennel, with stalks and fronds

1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes

1/2 cup brine-cured black olives, such as Kalamata

Preheat oven broiler with rack about 8 inches from heating element.

Make diagonal slashes 1/4 inches deep at 2-inch intervals across flesh side of the fish. Stir together the garlic, oregano, lemon zest and juice, salt, 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper and 2 tablespoons of the oil; spread on both sides of fish, rubbing into slashes. Cut stalks from the fennel bulb; reserve 1/4 cup picked fronds. Place stalks lengthwise on a rimmed baking sheet. Top with fish, slashed side up.

Cut fennel bulb in half lengthwise; remove and discard core. Thinly slice bulb lengthwise and toss with the tomatoes, olives, remaining 1 tablespoon oil and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; spread evenly around fish.

Broil until fish is just cooked and opaque throughout and vegetables are charred in places, for 8 to 10 minutes. (If they begin to blacken, tent with foil). Divide fish and vegetables among 4 plates, garnish with fennel fronds.

Makes 4 servings.

Recipe from MarthaStewart.com

Tribune News Service