Fennel pollen is an exceptionally flavorful spice that has become a staple ingredient for many chefs. Harvested from fennel plants that grow naturally along the Mediterranean, these flowers have long been an important part of Italian cooking. They add a potent touch to a wide variety of dishes, including pesto, pasta, pork, poultry and fish.
However you use it, this versatile spice contributes notes of licorice, citrus and honey. This flavor profile is a distinctive combination that has earned fennel pollen a place on every Colorado culinary arts student’s spice rack. Try these recipes to start exploring all you can do with fennel pollen and then see how you can incorporate this widely loved ingredient into some of your favorite foods:
Step up your salmon
“A fennel pollen rub can put seafood over the top.”
A fennel pollen rub can put a nicely cooked piece of seafood over the top. Seattle-based chef Johnathan Sundstrom provided the Food Network with directions for alder roasted king salmon that accentuate the spice’s licorice-like taste using an anise-flavored liqueur. This dish requires extensive prep time and the right wood to fully capture the best results, so be sure to plan ahead.
Cut a 12 to 16 pound salmon into two pieces, leaving the skin on, and place in a pan. Combine a cup of the liqueur with brown sugar, salt and water. Pour the brine over the fish and then move the pan into the refrigerator for at least four hours.
Pat off the salmon before brushing on extra-virgin olive oil and seasoning with fennel pollen, salt and pepper. Set on a plank of alder wood, covering with cold water, and allow the fish to rest overnight.
Burn alder coals until the fire lowers and they become quite hot. Lean the plank against the fire and cook for about 20 minutes. Serve with the salmon still on the plank.
Make broiled tomatoes into a sophisticated side
Adding the unique qualities of fennel pollen to the concentrated sweetness of broiled tomatoes and tanginess of goat cheese results in a side dish that truly stands out. Food & Wine’s recipe calls for cutting four tomatoes in half and setting them in a broiler pan with the cut side facing up. Add half a teaspoon of extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to each tomato.
Broil the tomatoes for three or four minutes, watching for them to brown. Cut slices from a log of mild goat cheese, placing one on each tomato. Top them with more olive oil and a little fennel pollen before returning to the broiler for another few minutes.
Once the cheese turns golden, move the tomatoes onto a platter. Serve alongside country bread or with sausages.
Bring out the best in your spaghetti
Al dente pasta and a simple topping can make an easy dinner that tastes fantastic, especially when you include fennel pollen. Serious Eats suggested a delicious method for preparing spaghetti that combines the spice with orange zest, garlic and mint.
Boil a pound of spaghetti in salted water until tender, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, set a skillet on medium-low heat and melt two tablespoons of butter. Add six cloves of sliced garlic, cooking for a minute.
Strain the spaghetti and transfer to skillet with extra-virgin olive oil, orange zest, sliced mint leaves and a teaspoon of fennel pollen. Stir, and then complete the dish with salt and a teaspoon of lemon juice.
Fennel pollen takes food to the next level in a huge variety of applications. This ingredient could prove to be an important part of your cooking as you make your way through culinary academy.