Fennel, a bulb shaped vegetable, is actually a perennial herb that belongs to the carrot family, yet it is not a root vegetable. It is native to the Mediterranean region and is used frequently in their cuisine.
My local farmer’s market vendors recently had beautiful fresh lacey fennel bulbs available. I purchased a couple of bulbs and began thinking about what to create with this Mediterranean inspired vegetable. Something slow cooked to bring out the sweetness of the fennel would be best. I also liked the thought of pairing the fennel with a protein, some salty Greek black olives, and a little spinach and cherry tomatoes for color. Thus, my fennel with chicken, spinach and black olives was born!
This large layered white or pale green bulb has a crisp texture and feathery leaves. When eaten raw, it has a celery like consistency. The licorice flavor of fennel is its most identifiable and unforgettable feature.
Do not let the licorice flavor of the fennel deter you from its many versatile uses in your cooking. It is fabulous when eaten raw in salads with fresh apple slices and salad greens. I also like to serve it warm as a side or a main especially if it is caramelized fennel. Slow and easy cooking of the fennel results in a sweet taste and a more tender consistency.
The chicken is rubbed with a Mediterranean style spice mixture including cumin and smoked paprika. After the chicken is browned, the fennel is added to the pot to slowly cook. Tomatoes and chick peas are added for color, texture and protein.
The raw spinach is added at the end and barely cooked. This helps it to retain its color and texture. I tossed in a few kalamata olives for additional salt and to add to the Mediterranean flavor of this fennel, chicken, spinach and olives recipe. Serve over steamed couscous.