I first met fennel at a cocktail party. It was on a crudite tray, raw, nestled between the "baby" carrots and the grape tomatoes. It was only fair that I mistook it for celery.
So I took a big old chomp of the crispy light green stalk. What a surprise I got! Raw fennel has an assertive licorice flavor. Personally, I like food with some moxie, especially when I know what I'm in for.
In the grocery store, raw fennel looks like a bunch of celery that swallowed a softball, as my friend Tamar Haspel of Starving Off the Land likes to say. It has a pregnant little belly, with long stalks emerging from the base. Foodista plays on the similarities of fennel and celery and pairs them in this simple slaw.
Whether or not you enjoy raw fennel, almost everyone loves it roasted, which tames its aggression and highlights its sweetness. Amateur Gourmet features this basic way to roast it, while Buff Chickpea combines fennel and carrots in a roasting pan and tops the vegetables with grated Pecorino before cooking. Roasted fennel with melted cheese? It's a guaranteed sweet-salty win.