Thursday, March 04, 2004

Harvested in Tuscany in October, fennel pollen is a typical ingredient of Tuscan dishes. It is traditionally used in salami and cured meats, or as a rub for pork and poultry. The aroma is sweet and pungent, and the taste is yummy.

Mix with sea salt and sprinkle on chicken, firm-fleshed fish or pork, or mix with olive oil or melted butter and brush or drizzle on roasted or grilled vegetables or potatoes. It is also a treat added to fish soups instead of saffron. I first heard of it in Faith Willinger's Italian vegetable book, Red, White and Greens, but was unable to find it in the US. Last year in Italy I found some and have been hoarding it. Now I have found a source, and I have brought in a few bottles. Although quite pricey, a little goes a long way. For more information, here is an interesting article.

Here are a couple of recipes to inspire you:


2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup shallots, minced
1-1/2 tsp fennel pollen
2 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and white pepper to taste
1 lb purchased fresh tortellini
In a medium skillet, hear olive oil and add garlic and shallots. Sauté over medium-low heat until soft but not browned, Add fennel pollen, cream and parmesan cheese. Heat to a simmer and let reduce by about 1/3, or until you like the thickness. Taste and add salt and white pepper to taste. When sauce is almost ready, cook the tortellini in plenty of boiling well-salted water. Drain and add to the sauce. Stir to combine, put into warmed flat pasta bowls and add more Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.
3 tbsp fennel pollen
1 tbsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp kosher or sea salt
1 tbsp fennel seeds, crushed
1/4 tsp celery seed, crushed (optional)
1 pinch cayenne or crushed red pepper
Place all ingredients in a jar and shake well. Sprinkle of fish filets, pork chops or chicken breasts before roasting. Also great on sautéed veggies. Keep in a dark place and it will last up to a year.

Here's another idea, not exactly a recipe: Mix fennel pollen and olive oil (say about 3 tbsp fennel pollen, and 1/4 cup olive oil). Separate the skin from the breast of a nice fat capon or roasting chicken and very carefully smear the pollen-oil mixture all around under the skin. Use any remaining oil to smear over the thighs and legs. Sprinkle liberally with salt and roast as usual. Be sure to deglaze the pan with a little water or white wine so you don't lose any of the great flavor!

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