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Carb Solutions: Grilled Fennel Summer Salad

Image of Grilled Fennel Summer Salad
Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have Diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions annually in both medical and economic resources; not to mention the effect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our own weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to make decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index [GI] and glycemic load [GL].

Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the blood stream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate these calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for diabetics who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating foods that have low glycemic scores since they also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts have been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.

A QUICKIE GLYCEMIC PRIMER:
  • The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low-glycemic-index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
  • The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how much digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, which is defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low.
There were enough interesting goodies in July’s primary ingredient source, Melissa’s Grilling Basket, to also provide inspiration for this month’s carb-friendly, open-flame side dish. Just add a hot August evening on the patio to fully enjoy the refreshing sweetness of this dish, served slightly warm or at room temperature. From the gift basket that just keeps on grilling!
Image of grilling basket
Anise, aka fennel, is an odd veggie. For instance, when sliced raw into a salad, it has a crisp texture similar to celery and a fresh, strong licorice flavor. However, when roasted or grilled, the veggie caramelizes, taking on a pleasantly sweet flavor and a tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture. Our Grilling Basket included a few trimmed bulbs, though the entire dill-like tops are also edible. For this dish, the bulbs are sliced into wedges and then marinated in a simple mix of lemon juice and olive oil.

Interestingly, an initial internet search of the word “fennel” results in a plethora of links to medicinal and nutritional focused websites with little reference to the edible vegetable. That took a little more specifics in the search criteria. The whole plant, especially the seeds, have been used for centuries in East Indian medicine as a digestive aid with gas relief qualities. Fennel is also low in calories and high in nutrients like dietary fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. All is well and good, though, on a hot summer evening, no one is reading nutritional panels. You’ll appreciate the quick and easy prep of these slightly sweet, grilled fennel wedges with green peas and stuffed olives, all laced with a light Dijon dressing—truly a cooling Mediterranean delight on a hot evening!

Grilled Fennel Salad
4 servings
Image of ingredients
Ingredients
3 Fennel tubers, tops removed
3 tablespoons lemon juice, separated (more if needed)
4 tablespoons olive oil, separated (more if needed)
½ cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
Salt to taste
Sprigs fresh thyme leaves to taste
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
3 oz. red pepper-stuffed green olives

Directions
Image of fennel bulb wedges
Pre-trimmed fennel bulbs were in the basket. Once trimmed, cut each bulb in half lengthwise. Slice each half into three equal wedges; make sure each wedge includes a part of the hard center core, which will hold them together on the grill. Brush the cut surfaces of the fennel wedges with about half lemon juice and olive oil let stand for at least 30 minutes.
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While the fennel is marinating, cook peas, then cold water rinse and drain them. Also, combine the remaining lemon juice and olive oil with thyme and mustard for the dressing.
Image of grilled fennel bulbs
Grill fennel on all sides for a total of about 8 minutes over medium heat.
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Plating: Arrange the wedges in a serving bowl, sprinkled with peas and olives, s & p to taste, then drizzle the simple dressing over all and top with feta cheese—serve family style.
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