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  • Writer's pictureChef Kelly Unger

Use the Fronds! My Love for Fennel

I love fennel. I am in love with fennel. I love fresh fennel, fennel seeds, and any dish that contains them. Fennel is such a goofy looking plant too and that adds to my affinity for it. It has a solid, juicy bulb - that oddly grows above ground - and those long, feathery fronds that are full of flavor, fragrance and uses. Fennel is perfect raw in a salad or cooked in a pot pie, soup or stew! I’m sharing my Fennel Pot Pie recipe with you this week. The recipe is inspired by the island of Ikaria, Greece and one that I taught during my “Discover the Blue Zones” cooking class series last Spring. Fennel grows wild all over the island of Ikaria and this recipe is full of Greek flavor, super healthy and simple to make with frozen phyllo dough on hand.

Fennel fronds should be chopped and used in your cooking as well. But if you get a bulb with more fronds than you can use in a recipe, put them in a vase with parsley or some flowers and enjoy the fragrance in your kitchen! Fennel fronds are perfect in a bouquet garni or herb bundle tied with kitchen string to flavor soups and stews.

You could make my pot pie with only fennel fronds, if you’d like. Maybe you have another recipe for the bulb. If you do that, I would increase the amount of the potatoes and carrots to make up for the volume of vegetables in the pie. Fennel is both a Spring and a Fall vegetable, as it prefers the cooler weather. So my recipe calls for Spring time green garlic. To adjust for Fall, use Butternut or Kabocha squash instead. Winter squash or pumpkin is very healthy and very popular in Ikarian cuisine.

Frozen phyllo dough is easy to use, as long as you work quickly with it and keep it moist. So keep the thawed dough in the refrigerator and only open the inner package of rolled dough the moment you are ready to use it. Once you’ve placed it in the dish, brush it with olive oil or butter to help keep it moist and to get it crispy in the oven. Enjoy!

Fennel Pot Pie

Recipe by Chef Kelly Unger

Serves 6

½ pound frozen phyllo dough, thawed

Olive oil for brushing

1 fennel bulb with fronds, bulb diced, half of the fronds chopped

2 large potatoes, cooked and sliced width wise

4 carrots, shredded

2 medium onions, chopped

1 teaspoon dried oregano or 2 tsps fresh

Salt and pepper

1 sprig of mint, chopped

2-3 green garlic stalks, chopped OR 1 leek chopped in Spring and ½ of a small Butternut or Kabocha squash, diced into small pieces

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large pan or pot, cook the fennel bulb, onions and green garlic or leeks in a little bit of olive oil over medium low heat. Once everything is soft and lightly browned, add the carrots, oregano mint and fennel fronds. Cook for about 3 minutes to heat through and soften. Remove from heat, season with salt and pepper and stir to thoroughly mix. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a 13x9 oven proof casserole dish, line in both directions with ⅔ of the phyllo dough. Brush with olive oil. Line the bottom with the potato slices. Season with salt and pepper. Add the fennel onion mixture. Top with the remaining phyllo dough. Roll any overhanging dough inward to form a rope. Brush the top with olive oil and make 2 slits for vent holes.

Bake for about 40 minutes or until the phyllo dough is golden and crispy. Allow to cool and set for about 10 minutes before cutting.

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