Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Let's Try Fennel! Green Beans and Fennel with Feta

I picked up a fennel bulb at the farmers' market but I had no idea what I was going to do with it. All I knew was I had tried it in some dishes that other people had made and that I thought it was probably pretty good, so why not go for it.  After I had it home for a day, I started to panic, what was I going to do with this thing?  I searched through my bookmarked recipes but I only had two recipes for fennel, and upon further inspection, they were the same recipe!  It was for a barley and fennel "risotto" in the slow cooker, but it didn't have good reviews so I didn't have a lot of faith that I could pull that off.  An online search for fennel recipes led me to one of my favorite sites, All Recipes.   I browsed through their "best fennel recipes" section and found this recipe and we had all of the ingredients -- green beans from the farmers' market, the bulb of fennel I had bought at the same market, basil from our garden, and even a couple containers of feta in the freezer.  Score! Plus it had good reviews (my favorite feature of All Recipes), which I read to use to modify the recipe a tiny bit. 


All Recipes Fresh Green Beans, Fennel, and Feta Cheese

I reduced the olive oil down to about a tablespoon or two, I don't usually measure so I don't know exactly, but it was certainly a lot less than 1/4 cup.  I also didn't measure the feta, but I tried to reduce it as well.

I also added some garlic powder and onion powder since I feel every dish could really use them both.  I was running out of minced garlic, that's why I used garlic powder.  I was also too lazy to cut up some real onion and I've got Penzey's granulated toasted onion, which smells fabulous. 

The instructions weren't exactly clear in the second step, but after reading the reviews, I figured I was going to saute the veggies in the oil for a bit rather than just warming them up. I also skipped boiling the fennel along with the green beans because some reviewers said that if you cut it thin enough, you didn't need to boil it.


  • 1 lb. green beans, washed and trimmed
  •  1 fennel bulb, cut into thin slices
  • 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
  • salt and peper
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 2 Tablespoons crumbled feta cheese


Start a medium-large pot of water to boil.  When that's ready, add the green beans and cook for 4 minutes.  When done, drain and rinse them with cold water to stop the cooking process.

quick plunge into boiling water
Meanwhile, slice up your fennel.  I wasn't sure how to handle the fennel, so I cut off everything from bulb (goodbye stalks, fronds, and root end) and sliced it in half from top to bottom so I had a good wide flat surface to work with.  I sliced it into thin bits, but it didn't fall apart like an onion would, so I cut the slices again going the other way so I still had long pieces.

Fennel bulb

fennel slices

Start up a big deep skillet over medium-high heat and add the olive oil.  When it's good and hot, turn the heat down to medium, add the fennel and saute for 1 minute.  I've got an electric stove and it's really slow to respond, that's why I suggest starting it higher than you really want.  If you're a lucky duck with a gas range, you'll probably be fine starting it on medium heat.

After sauteing the fennel for a minute, add the blanched green beans, basil, salt and pepper. At this point I also added the garlic powder and onion powder.  I sauteed for about four minutes until the green beans looked good and sizzled up and the fennel was definitely cooked. 

sauteed fennel and beans
Turn off the heat and let it cool a bit and add the feta crumbles.   My crumbles were still a bit hard from being frozen so the chunks were bigger than I wanted.  I tried to stab them with a fork to make them smaller, but it didn't work out. 
Add basil and feta


Hey, I found out I really like fennel! 

While preparing this recipe, Husband Jeff had declared he didn't want the fennel because it smelled like black licorice, but I told him that he should try it because I didn't think it would really taste like black licorice.  I was right, it has that fragrance, but it's not like a gross black jelly bean.  It's really quite subtle and lovely.  

My bulb of fennel was on the smaller side.  I liked the fennel in this dish and it seemed like it could have used a little more fennel for the ratio of green beans, so next time I would use two smaller bulbs or one bigger one.

This dish reminded me of something you would fall in love with at a friend's house for Thanksgiving.  Classy and interesting, but not strange or weird.   I bet you could pass this off as sauteed green beans and let everybody think the whitish bits are onion.

This might be good with some sliced almonds for some additional texture and crunch. 

Wanna Chat?

I turned off the 'leave a comment' feature, so if you want to share what you're thinking about this or anything else, drop me an email at jhk1013 (at) It's so much more cozy than a comment, plus we can have a real conversation!