While most people think of it as a predominantly Italian spice, fennel is actually a very popular flavor in several cuisines around the world. Fennel seeds are used as a spice, and the leaves and bulbs are used whole in a variety of recipes. There is, however, a third method for using the plant---fennel-infused olive oil. Fennel oil can add a new flavor dimension to your cooking.
Clean the fennel bulbs thoroughly. Rinse the bulbs under cool water, letting water flow between the folds to remove impurities.
Trim the leaves and any stalk portions from the bulb---the bulbs are the only part you will be using. Chop the fennel bulbs down to 1/4-inch cubes.
Combine the olive oil and fennel pieces in a deep saucepan. Bring the mixture to a full boil over high heat. Once the mixture has reached the boiling point, reduce the heat and let it simmer for about an hour.
Strain the oil through a sieve; once the majority of the liquid portion has passed through, use a flexible spatula or spoon to press the fennel solids against the sieve, extracting as much flavor as possible.
Store the fennel-infused oil in a closed container in your refrigerator. While regular olive oil can be stored outside of the refrigerator, fennel-infused oil contains fresh organic materials that can spoil.
Add a toasted undertone by first lightly sautéing the chopped fennel bulbs in a small portion of the olive oil that you'll be using.
Additional flavors can be added to fennel oil. Garlic pairs perfectly with the fennel's flavor. Crush one to three cloves of garlic for every cup of olive oil and treat the garlic solids like the fennel cubes.