I love fennel. I first discovered it in college, when a friend said that their favorite vegetable was fennel. At first, I was taken aback and apprehensive when it was described to me as tasting like licorice. I grew up with my chinese mother and grandmother throwing star anise into all sorts of dishes and was familiar with that sweet anisey flavor profile, but I hadn't had fennel before. I loved the delicate sweetness of it. The bulbs are amazing raw in salads or they can add a really incredible extra dimension to soups. When fennel is young and tender, like the kinds bought in the store, I use the whole thing--bulb with other alliums (like onions), stalk is treated similarly to celery, and the fronds get treated like dill.
Our garden fennel is a whole 'nother story. This year, fennel is coming up like a weed. Some of the fennel is 6' tall and woody. After fennel bolts, it is a little bit difficult to find good uses for all the stalks and stems. Especially at this point, the stalks can be so woody and bamboo-like that it can be difficult to eat on its own. I didn't want to waste this bolted fennel, so I set out on a fennel adventure and cooked and trained the stems and older fronds. The young tender fronds were set aside for other purposes.
Step 1: Wash and Chop the Fennel Super Well.
Wash all of the dirt off the the crevices in the fennel. This fennel was so tough and woody that we used bolt cutters to cut it and ended up breaking, rather than chopping it.
Step 2: Cover With Water and Boil
Cover with water and boil. Feel free to add in any other veggies that might need to be used up. Add in salt to taste and a few bay leaves.
Step 3: Taste Soup Stock After 30 Minutes - 2 Hours
Let the soup simmer for at least 30 minutes and up to a few hours. After simmering, you can either freeze it (good for ~ 6months), store in the refrigerator (good for ~ week) or use it right away. I ended up using it right away as a base for a simple lentil soup!