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Fennel is an edible, white, anise-flavored root. Those who like black licorice would probably enjoy chopped fennel in a salad with spinach and sliced strawberries. Others may prefer to sauté or roast this root because cooking usually eliminates the sharpness of its flavor. Most recipes that include fennel call for it to be chopped or sliced, so cooks typically cut up these roots before cooking them. One of the keys to cutting fennel correctly is slicing it up in the correct order. The ends should typically come off first, followed by the core. After that, cooks may slice up this veggie any way they like.
Before cutting fennel, cooks should locate the top and bottom of the root. The top features thick green stalks with feathery leaves, while the bottom is flat and may feature some small white hairs. Both the top stalks and the flat end should be trimmed away with a sharp knife, creating a root that looks almost like a baseball with a flat top and bottom.
The outer skin of a fennel bulb is sometimes tough with an unpleasant flavor. Many cooks carefully score this outer layer with a knife and peel it away. Others simply use a vegetable peeler. The bulb should be rinsed after peeling to remove any dirt that may have snuck under the first layer.
The next step in cutting fennel usually involves standing it up on one of its flat ends and slicing it down through the center. Cooks examining the inside of the cut bulb should see a dense, tough inner core stretching from the center of the bulb to the bottom. This may be removed by holding the knife at a 45° angle against the cut side of each bulb half and slicing downward. At this point, the fennel bulb is prepped for almost any kind of slicing the cook would like to do.
Cutting fennel bulb halves vertically usually yields wedges, while slicing them horizontally creates thin slices. Horizontal slicing, followed by vertical chopping, creates small pieces of fennel that can be sautéed with sliced onions and potatoes. These smaller pieces also work well in soups, stews, and raw salads. Wedges can be roasted, while thin slices might be added to casseroles.
Cooks who don’t like to waste food can try cutting fennel stalks, too. To do this, cooks should simply grasp each stalk at the tip and pull their fingers downward to remove all of the feathery leaves. These leaves often make a pretty and delicious garnish. The stalks can then be chopped into rings and used in recipes just like the bulb.