This semester I’ve been taking an online nutrition class. It’s been really fun and interesting. Our last project of the semester was to try 5 new, whole foods, meaning foods that haven’t been overly processed. As a child who grew up with a strict one-bite rule, I’m a big fan of trying new things and was eager to tackle this assignment. Coming up with 5 foods that I’ve never tasted was a bit of a challenge, but I’ve managed to come up with quite a few things and hope to continue challenging myself to try new things.
One of the first things I thought I should try was fennel. I’ve avoided fennel because I’m not a fan of licorice or anise flavored things. So with a brave (and skeptical) heart, I bought my first fennel bulb. Fennel is a good, low-calorie source of vitamin C, fiber and potassium. The whole fennel plant is edible, the leaves can be use as a fresh herb, and the stalks are good for soups, but I focused on the bulb. Raw fennel does smell very strongly of licorice, but doesn’t have too strong of a licorice taste, it’s mostly just crunchy like celery. And when I cooked it in this dish, it was very pleasant. The sweet notes from the butternut squash, cranberries and apples pairs nicely with the floral and more mellow flavor of the cooked fennel. We served this dish to some family friends and once I told them about the fennel they could taste it, but otherwise it just adds a nice complexity to the dish. We served this with pork, but it would also be great as a Thanksgiving side dish.
Adapted from Foodie Crush
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large shallot, diced
- 1 fennel bulb, diced
- 1 large butternut squash, peeled and diced (I cheated and got the pre-cut kind from the grocery store), about 4 cups
- 2-3 Tbsp fresh sage, chopped
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 large tart apple (I used pink lady, but granny smith would work great too)
- 3/4 cup water (or apple juice if you have it on hand)
- salt, to taste
In a large cast iron pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add shallot and fennel and sauté until softened. Add butternut squash and sauté for a few minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer with the lid on for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Check for seasoning and doneness, add more water if needed. Serve hot or at room temperature.