Dishing Up the Dirt

Grilled Fennel & Pea Salad with Fennel Frond Pesto

It really is the most wonderful time of the year. Despite the heat and the long days peak farm season rules! There are so many amazing vegetables in season that it’s hard to choose what to make.

The inspiration for this meal ended up being really simple-we harvested too much fennel for the farmers market and came home with a few extra bulbs. Not to worry, I knew exactly what I wanted to cook up as soon as we walked in the door.

I’ve made pesto out of pretty much everything imaginable-kale, beets, beet greens, arugula, cilantro and even weeds from the fields! However, it never dawned on me to make pesto out of fennel fronds. It seems like a no brainer. Not only are they beautiful but they are delicious with just the right amount of bite without being overpowering. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to think about doing this.

I knew this recipe was a home-run when Taylor went back for thirds. He isn’t a huge fennel lover however, this recipe is a game changer for him. Grilled fennel becomes smokey and sweet. It loses some of it’s strong licorice flavor and becomes incredibly tender. It honestly may be my favorite vegetable to throw on the grill. Topped with fennel frond pesto and tossed with peas and radishes this is a simple farm fresh meal at its best. We’ve already made it twice in one week. It’s happening again this weekend with friends too! We can’t get enough.

If you don’t own a grill or aren’t comfortable grilling (that’s me!) I would suggest roasting the fennel. It will still caramelize and become sweet and tender. There aren’t any rules when it comes to cooking so make this recipe your own. Experiment with the flavor combinations and always taste test as you go. I hope you all enjoy this simple meal as much as we do. Pour a glass of your favorite wine and enjoy! Cheers.

Grilled Fennel & Pea Salad with Fennel Frond Pesto

Prep Time: 15 minutes    Cook Time: 30 minutes    Serves: 4

  • 3-4 large fennel bulbs, stems and root chopped off (save fennel fronds from stems)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups english peas, (if frozen thawed, if fresh blanched)
  • 8-10 medium-sized radishes, thinly sliced
  • 3/4 cup uncooked quinoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper to taste
For the Pesto:
  • 2 cups fennel fronds (removed from tough stems)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Prepare the pesto by combining all the ingredients in a food processor and processing until smooth. (This pesto will have a bit more texture than traditional basil pesto) Taste test and adjust seasonings as needed. Add more oil to thin if necessary. Set aside.
  2. Prepare quinoa by combining 3/4 cup quinoa with 3/4 cup water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until quinoa has absorbed the liquid and can easily be fluffed with a fork. About 10-15 minutes.
  3. Heat a grill to medium. Cut fennel bulbs into 2 inch thick wedges. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on the grill and cook each side for about 5-8 minutes-or until grill marks appear and fennel has lightly caramelized and softened. Times will vary depending on your fennel and grill. Keep a close eye on it. Once fennel has cooked remove from the grill and set aside to lightly cool.
  4. In a large bowl toss the quinoa with the peas, radishes and cooked fennel. Toss with pesto until evenly coated. Sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes and additional salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!


*Use this recipe as a guide *Adjust measurements and ingredients as necessary *Taste test as you go

Leave a Reply

7 thoughts on “Grilled Fennel & Pea Salad with Fennel Frond Pesto

  1. Baby June says:

    That looks awesome! Love the fennel frond pesto, so unique. 🙂

  2. Lee says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and I love all of your recipes, especially your pesto ideas! This one is perfect, because I never know what to do with all those extra fennel fronds.

    Keep up the great work!

  3. Yum! Peas and pesto just might be one of the best combinations, and the fennel frond pesto is so creative! You are the queen of farm fresh pestos my dear 🙂

  4. Mee too, Lee! Those fennel fronds are no longer a mystery! Thank you for this lovely recipe Andrea!

  5. Fennel pesto. Genius. I am definitely giving this a go and have duly pinned this to my board.
    Thanks for sharing your lovely ideas

  6. James says:

    You are so creative Andrea!!! Nice meeting you at the farmers Mkt in HRiver. It amazes me all the creative farm energy you young CSA farmers have! Keep it up……,wonderful addition to this world of ‘ours’. Say for quinoa I’ve always cooked it with liquid one to two. Your recipe was one to one, have to try that!

  7. Barbara Deindorfer says:

    Andrea, I am growing fennel for the first time this year and they are all different sizes.
    I am very interested in this recipe, could you tell me roughly how many cups of fennel is needed vs how many bulbs. Thanks

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