Fennel Fronds Pesto
I love fennel, a nutritious flowering perennial herb that has a subtle anise aroma and flavor. Like many members of the carrot family, every part of the fennel plant is edible. This includes the crunchy and slightly sweet bulb, the green stems (which tend to be tougher in texture), and the herb’s thin and delicate leaves. I love tossing thin slices of the crisp bulb into a salad, or roasting them up with lemon, olive oil, salt, and pepper. I’ll adorn a chicken or fish with aromatic fennel stems before putting it in the oven to roast. Until this year, however, I was at a loss of an interesting way to use the feathery fronds of the fennel plant.
That all changed after a visit to my beloved local farm, Sport Hill Farm in Easton, CT. They’ve had the most beautiful fennel this summer. For weeks, I couldn’t leave without buying at least one bulb of fennel with stems and fronds intact. One day, someone at the farm suggested I turn the fronds into a pesto. I went home and did just that. The result was a tasty delight that I’ve since enjoyed atop freshly cut seasonal vegetables, tossed with quinoa and other grains, or alongside protein like tofu, chicken breast, or wild salmon. The pesto will keep for 3-4 days refrigerated in an airtight container. You can also freeze it in ice cube trays and enjoy it in the months to come.
Fennel Fronds Pesto
*This recipe is a loose guide. Please add more or less garlic, olive oil, nuts, and even Parmesan cheese according to taste.
- About 1 cup Fennel Fronds, washed and roughly chopped
- 1-2 Garlic Cloves
- 1/8 cup Pecans, Walnuts, or Pine Nuts (Pumpkin Seeds are also good)
- ¼ cup Good Quality Olive Oil (use less for thicker pesto, more for a creamier pesto)
- ½ teaspoon Sea Salt
- Optional: 1/8 cup or more Grated Parmesan Cheese
- Lightly toast the nuts in the oven at 350ºF for 5-10 minutes or in a dry, heavy skillet over medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes. The nuts are done as soon as they begin to smell fragrant. Let cool.
- Place the fennel fronds, nuts, garlic, salt, and Parmesan (if you’re using any) in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse briefly to incorporate the ingredients.
- Next, add the olive oil and process into a smooth paste-like consistency. Add more oil if needed and be sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice as you work.
recipe and photos by Sophie Slater