Once upon a time there was a girl who loved food. She was a fairly adventurous eater and would try almost anything. There were just a few tastes she didn't like - coconut, really lemony desserts and black licorice. Yuck, especially black licorice! No Good-n-Plenties for her. No licorice sticks. No "slight" anise-flavored anything!
One day the girl met a boy with a garden. He grew all sorts of tasty vegetables and they were all beautiful. The girl noticed a pretty feathery plant growing out of a white bulb. The swallowtail butterflies were attracted to it, laying their eggs on the fronds.
The girl was curious, so she asked the boy what it was. The boy said, "It's fennel. Here, try some. It has a slight anise flavor." And the girl ran screaming into the hills.....
Ok, so maybe my dislike of licorice isn't that extreme, but I never did like black licorice anything, still don't. I did eventually try the fennel. First using it cooked as a base of a baked Vegetable Parmesan. (Cooking it really does bring out its sweetness and mellows the anise flavor.) Then I decided I was a grown up and I would try to like grown up things, like raw fennel. So I made this White Bean and Fennel Salad with Avocado - and I LOVE it! It's easy to make and stores well - great to pack in lunches for a summer picnic or as a side for burgers on the grill. Give it and try and perhaps you, too, will learn not to fear the fennel!
White Bean and Fennel Salad with Avocado
3 cups cooked cannellini beans (or 2 15-oz canned beans, rinsed and drained)
1 medium bulb fennel, trimmed and shredded
1 cup halved grape tomatoes
¼ cup minced red onion
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
¼ cup sliced pitted Kalamata olives
¼ cup olive oil
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp chopped basil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, as needed
2 avocados, diced
In a large bowl, combine the beans, fennel, tomatoes, onion, parsley, and olives.
In a small bowl, mix the oil, lemon juice, and basil to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Add the dressing to the bean mixture, and toss to coat. Fold in the avocado and serve immediately.
Makes 4 side dish servings
From the book: Vegetarian Cooking, At Home with the Culinary Institute of America