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Big Flavors in Tiny Grains of Fennel Pollen

Fine Cooking Issue 44
Photo: Scott Phillips
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Fennel pollen is nothing new in Tuscany, but here in the U.S., we’re just beginning to learn about the appeal of this fragrant spice. The first time I smelled wild Italian fennel pollen, its powerfully familiar yet mysterious aroma immediately captivated me.

Praying that it tasted as good as it smelled, I started dreaming of inventive ways to cook with it. Then I remembered how often the simplest approach turns out to be the best, so I mixed a small amount of the pollen with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, and started sprinkling it on whatever I happened to be cooking: roast pork and potatoes, baked chicken, grilled fish, even steamed cauliflower. I wasn’t disappointed. The complex, sunny fennel flavor burst through in ways that fennel seed could never match.

You can order your own supply of wild Italian fennel pollen from Zingerman’s (888-636-8162). Twenty dollars buys 45 grams (about 1/2 cup), and because a little of this stuff goes a long way, that should last you a while—unless you go as crazy for it as I did.

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