Fennel, native to the Mediterranean, grows well in the similar climate of the California Central Coast. It grew in abundance all over the uncultivated slopes of our erstwhile avocado ranch, along with prickly pear cactus, both now sadly unavailable to us. But no matter; just as it does abroad, the plant grows wild here, springing up plentifully on roadsides, hillsides, vacant lots, and cracks in the sidewalk.

Throughout the millennia, Mediterranean cultures have reaped the wild fennel harvest for culinary and medicinal purposes. It was a field of wild fennel (marathon) in ancient Greece that lent its name to the place it grew…Marathon…site of an historic battle between the Persians and the Athenians. When the vastly outmanned Athenian army routed the Persians, so the story goes, a messanger named Pheidippides ran the 26.2 miles to Athens to bring them the news of victory. He subsequently collapsed and died of exhaustion, but we still commemorate (and some emulate) his feat, calling the brutal test of endurance by the name of where it occurred…place where the wild fennel grows.

(For more than you may ever have wished to know about fennel, click here or here.)

Fennel happens to be one of Mike’s favorite foods; he loves the bulbs sliced up raw in salads, he loves them braised in stews or rubbed with a little olive oil and roasted in the oven; he loves the chopped fronds as an herby note mixed with fresh greens; he loves the fruits (often called seeds) just to eat a spoonful of after dinner. Thus, I’m always on the lookout for something new to do with fennel.

The something arrived while thumbing through the December 2006 issue of Saveur magazine, one of my favorite food reads. In an article by Nancy Coons called “Provence Noel” (which offers a simply fascinating glimpse of the place and the culture for lovers of Christmas traditions around the world, such as moi) I noticed a recipe for anchiode, which is a traditional Mediterranean sauce made of anchovies and oil. It’s usually used, as it was in the Provencal Christmas feast Ms. Coons was recounting, as a dipping sauce for raw carrots or other crudite, but makes a great dressing for roasted or grilled meat or vegetables or even salad greens. Although often made with olive oil, this version, is made with butter.


And that got me to thinking about how good it would be to make a hot salad (since it’s winter now) of grilled endive and fennel bulbs, tossed with anchiode. When you consider the healthy fats in the anchovies and lauric acid in the butter, the plethora of antioxidants in the fennel, it’s a real feel-good-about-eating-it dish. And thus:

Grilled Fennel and Endive with Anchiode
Serves 4

For the Anchoide:
(from Nancy Coons in Saveur, December 2006)

10 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 ounce jar or tin of boneless anchovy fillets

1. Combine the anchovies and butter in a small saucepan, heat over medium heat, crushing as stirring the anchovies wih a fork as the butter melts
2. Cook, stirring with the fork until hot through (about 3-4 minutes). Set aside.

*Note: the recipe makes about 1 cup, of which you’ll need only about 1/2 cup for this salad. Reserve the rest in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to a week; rewarm for tossing with cooked spaghetti squash or to dress other yummy cooked low carb veggies, such as boiled celery root, roasted peppers, green beans, broccoli/cauliflower,etc.

For the salad:

2 fennel bulbs, washed, trimmed, and quartered
4 heads of endive, washed and split lengthwise
olive oil
black pepper
coarse salt

1. Rub the fennel and endive with olive oil, sprinkle with just a touch of coarse salt (the anchovies will be salty enough) and grind on plenty of fresh black pepper.
2. Grill on hot grill pan (or outdoor grill) for about 5-6 minutes, turning as needed to prevent burning, but allowing the veggies to wilt and pick up grill marks.
3. Remove the veggies to a cutting board and coarsely chop them.
4. Dress with about 1/2 cup anchiode, tossing to coat thoroughly.
5. Serve immediately.

For those who harbor a knee-jerk aversion to anchovies, give this a try. Although flavorful and strong, it doesn’t taste remotely fishy. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.


  1. Sounds great!! I have a lot to learn about spices and such. I’ve tried several recipes from your comfort cookbook and haven’t been disappointed.

    Oh and you’re been tagged! http://cindyslowcarblife.blogspot.com/2007/01/5-things.html

    Sorry, Dr Mike said he promised he wouldn’t tag you, not that we can’t! I want to hear about that beauty contest!

    COMMENT from MD EADES: The recipe is delicious…and you’re a rat for tagging me! And he’s an even bigger rat for ratting out my beauty pageant past! But, as Mike will aver, I’m nothing if not a follower of rules, so I will comply and reveal my 5 things in a blog soon. Stay tuned.

  2. Sounds delicious — if only I could get fennel in the regular grocery here. I’ll have to make a special trip!

    COMMENT from MD EADES: It is indeed. It grows so easily, that you might consider planting some if your climate will allow.

  3. So glad to find another use for fennel! Like your location in Central CA, it grows well in my San Diego location as well. The past few years we had a bit of a fennel forest from volunteer plants reseeding, resulting in a wonderful Swallowtail butterfly habitat. My son had a great time feeding and pupating a few caterpillars in the house, then releasing them after metomorphisis.

    This year I decided to scatter fennel seeds on the slope in the back of our garden for the Swallowtails, because we didn’t eat much fennel last year for fear of disturbing their lifecycle.

    And homegrown fennel is so much fresher and better than store-bought fennel (sometimes labeled “anise” in the market), which is often quite old and dry. I do find that to get good bulbs for eating we need to drip irrigate in our dry climate if we don’t get enough winter rain.

    I especially like fennel salads with citrus. My favorite is fresh, thinly sliced fennel bulbs & leaves with sliced kumquats (like mini oranges that are eaten whole, skin & all) with a citrus vinaigrette. The kumquats are much lower in carbs than oranges but full of powerful orange flavor. A few toasted nuts are a nice addition, too. I use walnuts if walnut oil is in the dressing.

    COMMENT from MD EADES: What a delicious sounding salad; I will definitely give it a try. Thanks for sharing it.


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