Fennel Infused Oil
Fennel isn’t something I use often but when I do, it is typically just the bulb. However, the stalks and fronds are a huge part of the plant and I hate to just throw them in the compost – there is a lot of flavor in there! Always looking for ways to use every last part of my produce, I decided to chop the stalks and fronds and cook them slowly in olive oil to extract their flavor. I added in orange zest, red pepper flakes and fennel seeds, which is a classic Italian flavor combination.
I am currently reading through The Modern Preserver and the author has a recipe for a fennel and orange pickles. In addition to fennel and orange, she uses lemon zest, yellow mustard seeds, chili flakes and black peppercorns. I am sure those flavors enhance the pickle and make it more complex. I will try adding some to my next batch!
How to Use It
This oil may seem like an obscure thing to have on hand so I wanted to include plenty of ideas on how you can use it.
- This makes a wonderful salad dressing. Use the ratio of 1 part acid to 3 parts oil. I have tried balsamic and red wine vinegar for the acid component and both were lovely.
- Toss with roasted asparagus, beets, carrots, potatoes or onions
- Drizzle on sauteed eggplant or summer squash
- Charcuterie Board
- Fennel is a great pairing with cheese (Parmesan, pecorino, goat, Gorgonzola) and cured meats (pancetta, prosciutto) so I think it would fun to add it to a charcuterie board. You could have it there to dip bread in or even brush it on sliced bread when making crostini.
- Pasta & Grains
- Toss this with pasta and add olives, minced parsley, red pepper flakes, Parmesan and a squeeze of lemon
- Use the same flavors mentioned above on couscous, bulgur or any other grain of choice
Storing Infused Oil
Turns out, you should only store homemade infused oil in the refrigerator for 1 month. Afterwards, it is best to throw it out (I have used mine well beyond that time but I haven’t sickened my family…yet!). For more information on safely storing infused oils, check out this link.
An alternative to storing it in the refrigerator is freezing it in ice cube trays. You can then defrost just the amount you intend to use and don’t have to worry about the rest.
Fennel Infused Olive Oil
Oil infused with sweet fennel flavors highlighted with notes of citrus and spiciness.
Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan and press as much of the fennel below the oil as possible (the oil will barely cover everything at first but it will cook down later). Bring to a simmer over medium heat, cover, and reduce to low to maintain a very low simmer. Cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, or until the flavor the oil has reached your liking. Remove from heat and strain through a fine mesh strainer set over a medium mixing bowl. Allow to cool to room temperature, transfer to an air-tight container and store in the refrigerator.
- I tried a batch using only a few orange zest strips and didn't get a lot of orange flavor. The next batch I increased it to 6 strips and the orange flavor was pronounced. Hopefully that helps you decide how many to use.
- I tried a batch using 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes and didn't get much of any heat. The next batch I increased it to 1 teaspoon and while not spicy, there is a little kick on the finish.
- I haven't tried cooking the oil any longer than 1 hour as I assumed all of the fennel flavor has been extracted at that point. But I would love to know the results if you cook it longer!