Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ingredient Spotlight: fennel pollen

When I mentioned fennel pollen in passing last week, I got quite a few requests for more information about it. I’ve come to find that some of the ingredients I use on a regular basis aren’t necessarily common, so I’ve decided to start a semi-regular feature called Ingredient Spotlight. Once a month, I’ll feature a different ingredient – what it is, where to buy it and recipe ideas. If you have any ingredients in particular that you’d like me to talk about, just let me know.

First up is fennel pollen. Fennel pollen is exactly what it sounds like – the pollen from wild fennel plants. I’ve think that raw fennel tastes very different than cooked fennel. Besides the obvious texture difference, raw fennel has a distinctive licorice flavor. When you cook fennel it gets sweet, and the licorice flavor is considerably milder. Fennel pollen tastes like cooked fennel, only sweeter with a more intense flavor. It’s quite delicious.

I bought my fennel pollen at a specialty foods store in the Bay Area. You can order it online from them, or buy it at Amazon. It’s a little pricey because it’s very labor intensive to pick, but a little goes a long way. Fennel pollen is primary used in Italian cooking, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t use it elsewhere. You can use it in place of fennel seeds in quite a few recipes, although I would stick to simple preparations to let its flavor shine.

One of my favorite combinations is fennel pollen and pork. Apparently Anne Burrell and Mario Batali agree. Nancy Silverton puts fennel pollen in roasted vegetables. You could also use it on fish or chicken.

Here’s a recipe I adapted from the Campanile cookbook. The original didn’t call for fennel pollen, but I thought it would pair well with the scallops. I loved this dish – if you’re a leek fan like I am, give it a try. If you want to make this but don’t want to buy fennel pollen, just leave it out.


Scallops with fennel pollen, leeks and bacon
Serves 4
Adapted from the Campanile cookbook

1 ½ lbs sea scallops
2 tsp fennel pollen
4 slices of bacon, cut into ½ inch pieces
6 leeks, cleaned and lengthwise into 1-2 inch pieces
1 T grainy mustard
½ a lemon
Salt and pepper

Cook the bacon in a large pan until crisp, transfer to paper towels. Divide the bacon fat between two large pans; you should have about 1 tablespoon per pan. Drain some of the fat off if you have too much. Warm both pans over high heat. In one pan, add the leeks and turn the heat down to medium, sauté until browned and tender. Add salt and pepper to taste. Turn the heat down to low, and add the mustard. Cook for about 1 minute, then add the bacon and juice from the lemon.

Make sure your scallops are dry before you start. Sprinkle the scallops with the fennel pollen, salt and pepper. Sear the scallops in the other pan over high heat in a single layer for about 3 minutes. Turn the scallops to the other side and cook for another 2-3 minutes, or until done. Serve the scallops over the leeks.


92 comments:

veggie belly said...

Ingredient spotlight is a great idea, im so glad you are doing this! Its always nice to learn about new ingredients. I didnt know fennel pollen even existed! I like fennel, so im sure i'll like the pollen :)

Reeni♥ said...

The spotlight is a great idea. I will have to order some on-line,thanks for the links. The Scallops sound really tasty, love the flavors in them.

5 Star Foodie said...

Thank you for the information on fennel pollen! I am a big fan of leeks and scallops and the dish sounds wonderful with the fennel pollen.

Tracey said...

Great post! I didn't know what fennel pollen was so I've learned something! Also, I don't like raw fennel because of its licorice flavor but maybe I'd like fennel pollen :)

unconfidentialcook said...

What a great idea!!! I agree...fennel and pork is such a wonderful combo. I have a recipe from, if you can believe it, the Williams-Sonoma catalogue with pork, fennel and balsamic vinegar that's wonderful. I bet it's great with the scallops....

Sarah Herman said...

Scallops, leeks and bacon what could be better! May have to try this one soon.

Shari@Whisk: a food blog said...

Thanks for enlightening me about fennel pollen. I had no idea! This will be a great feature.

Barbara Bakes said...

I love the spotlight idea! I learned a lot! Thanks!

Bharti said...

Interesting ingredient Sara. I like the spotlight idea.

Megan said...

I had never heard of fennel pollen but if I ever see, you can be sure I'll pick some up! Looks like a great recipe. Love the "spotlight" idea!!!

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

Very interesting Sara! Thanks for sharing that. I don't think I've ever seen it here in Australia for sale but I'd love to try and find some now :D

Jessica@Foodmayhem said...

Yum, the fennel pollen sounds wonderful. I definitely want to try that.

Selba said...

I love the aroma of fennel :)

mamakd said...

Great idea! I am so glad you are doing an ingredient spotlight. I am really curious to try this. Thanks so much for the inspiration!

Carolyn Jung said...

I think the Gourmet Corner in San Mateo also sells fennel pollen. I've yet to cook with it, but I've had it in dishes in restaurants. Now, you've inspired me with your pork dish to try playing around with it at home.

Pam said...

I have only recently discovered how much I love fennel...I'll be on the lookout for fennel pollen. The scallops look fantastic.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

Interesting... I've never seen fennel pollen here. Your dish looks fantastic, as usual!

I hope you'll like that Lemon Buttermilk Tart!

Cheers,

Rosa

Culinarywannabe said...

Your scallops look like they have such a beautiful, golden crust on them. And of course, I'm sure the bacon doesn't hurt either!

Robin Sue said...

Great post! I was wondering what you did with your pollen. I am sure it is quite hard to harvest!

lesley said...

This was really interesting, great post!! I love learning things like this and I must say, I had never heard of fennel pollen until just now. Thanks!

Cathy said...

Great post Sara! The scallops look delicous.

Claudia said...

I came for a fish recipe (trying to eat lighter - a little bacon wouldn't hurt ... too much) and you did not disappoint. And now a bonus! Fennel pollen! Will try. Love the "spotlight" idea. But I'm in theatre and we are addicted to spotllights.

Grace said...

yep, this is definitely a new ingredient to me, but it seems like every day i discover some new food item that i'd previously been oblivious to. thanks for the info!

Netts Nook said...

Sara this looks great isn't Fennel in the Asian 5 spice. I am not sure. Love any seafood.

Leslie said...

Hi Sarah, is Fennel Pollen the same as regular Fennel (the little seed that goes on rye bread?)

Your scallops look amazing! Seafood was the last meat I gave up when I became a vegetarian 20 years ago. And I did LOVE scallops, shrimp, Lobster.. I had a taste for the finer things in life! hahah

Leslie
LeslieVeg@msn.com
http://leslielovesveggies.blogspot.com/

Jenna said...

Thank you so much for the information! I can't wait for more Ingredient spotlights, great idea! Your scallops look beautiful! I've never tried leeks before so maybe now is a good time :)

Maria said...

Great spotlight! I love scallops, great photos!

Cheryl said...

I love the Spotlight idea, and now I know what Fennel Pollen is! Cool!

stephchows said...

It's amazing how many ingredients you use and never think as weird until someone else comes along and goes HUH??? Thanks for the lesson!

Donna-FFW said...

I have never even heard of this. Its true, I always learn new things from your post. Thank you. I do like to learn new things.

teresa said...

How AWESOME! I didn't even know it existed until now, I love how you aren't afraid to try new and different things!

♥Rosie♥ said...

What a great idea "Ingredient Spotlight", so glad you are doing this too! Scallops, leeks and bacon absolutely delicious combo.

Rosie x

Bridgett said...

Great post! I had received some in a gift basket at Christmas and had yet to use it. Now I have a perfect recipe and definitely one the hubby will enjoy. Thank you Sara!

Judy said...

Looks like a great recipe. Love scallops and bacon.

Chef E said...

That, and all your pics are gorgeous and I love that you highlight ingredients so that I can find new things to play with! Thanks...

Foodie with Little Thyme! said...

Beautiful scallops and I love the "spotlight" idea.

Katherine Aucoin said...

This is such a wonderful idiea. I love learning about new herbs and ingredients and fennel pollen is new to me. I feel like such a neanderthal! Your scallops look divine.

Deborah said...

I don't necessarily like the licorice flavor, so maybe I'd like the fennel pollen!

biz319 said...

I've never even heard of that before! Wonder if they sell it at whole foods?

Scallops look beautiful too!

Sara said...

Leslie and Nett - Fennel seed and fennel pollen are from the same type of plant, just different parts of the plant :).

biz319 - Good question, I'll have to check the next time I'm there.

The Food Hunter said...

I love fennel. I've never tried fennel pollen but I will now. Thanks for the recipe on how to use it.

Diana said...

I love this idea (ingredient spotlight)! very cool info about fennel pollen -- I look forward to reading more! :)

P.S. Recipe looks AMAZING. Yay Nancy!

danamccauley said...

How interesting! I'm going to look out for fennel pollen here in Toronto. I'm completely unfamiliar with this ingredient.

Kerstin said...

I've never tried using fennel pollen, but I feel like I've recently read somewhere that it's a "secret" ingredient used by restaurtants frequently. Thanks for all the info and the yummy recipe!

Jan said...

Fennel pollen is a new one on me, sounds nice though. Those scallops with the leeks and bacon look to die for. I also love leeks, but you've probably gathered that. :-)

Lynda said...

Thanks for the info on fennel pollen, as I hadn't heard of it either. The scallops look so enticingly delicious!

Ginger said...

I would like to say thanks for the info on fennel pollen also!! The scallops look like they came from a 5 star restuarant. Great photos and wonderful blog. Thanks for sharing!!

Jennfier said...

I've never heard of fennel pollen before. That scallop recipe looks awesome.

That's why I love reading other people's food blogs, because you learn so much!

Debinhawaii said...

I have cooked with fennel and fennel seeds but not fennel pollen. Thanks to your post I want to try it. What a beautiful dish!

Ingrid said...

I like the idea especially as there are so many that I don't know much about, heard of, or tried. I like getting a doable recipe to go along with it. Will you be posting throughout the month several recipes that use the spotlighted ingredient? Can I tell you something? I've never tasted leeks either!! Don't ask.

I can't imagine anyone not enjoying your dish....scallop, bacon, it gets better how?
~ingrid

Karen Brown Letarte said...

Sara, this is fascinating! I had never heard of fennell pollen until recently when I purchased some delcious Cypress Grove Purple Haze chevre, flavored with lavender and fennel pollen. It was delcious! You recipe looks fantastic!

Thanks for visiting my blog! :) K

Elyse said...

I'm so glad you're starting this ingredient spotlight! I was wondering about fennel pollen when you mentioned it last. So great to see what it is and to see how it works in a recipe!

Sara said...

Ingrid - I haven't exactly figured out all the logistics of how this ingredient spotlight thing will go yet :). I will definitely post at least one of my own recipes and links to things that other people have made, like I've done here. Good suggestion to do a few recipes throughout the month. Leeks are so good, I highly recommend trying them soon!

Sharon said...

Thank goodness for food blogs! I learn so much and would love to try this!

noble pig said...

I ahve been wanting to try this. I think scallops was a great place to test it out.

Sara said...

This dish looks good enough to convince me to try scallops again...

I think the ingredient spotlight is a great idea - I'll definitely be reading.

Emily said...

This is interesting stuff! I had never heard of fennel pollen. I love fennel, so I know I would like it.

Ana Powell said...

Dear Sarah
Thank you for the information on fennel pollen, its a new thing to me.
Splendid recipe
Have a great weekend x

Olga said...

Love scallops! Why don't I ever make them at home?

Nila Rosa said...

I have a fennel pollen salt that I put on pretty much everything. I love it.

Melissa said...

I love your ingredient spotlight. I've never heard of fennel pollen before. I have a feeling you're going to make me smarter!

Sophie said...

MMMMMM...Sara!!! I love it!!!

lisaiscooking said...

I have a funny story about fennel pollen. Our local, usual grocery store offers a good selection of many gourmet products, but on a particular occasion, I was very disappointed to not find fennel pollen. (Kurt thought I was ridiculous.) Of course, they can't have everything, and my expectations may have gotten too high. I got over it and placed an order with Market Hall Foods.

Your scallops look fantastic!

Sandie said...

That scallop dish is about the best presentation (for scallops) I've ever seen---with the leeks, fennel pollen and bacon. My husband would go nuts for this!

Kelly said...

Wow! I would like to eat those scallops. Really. I have never had fennel pollen, now I think I will have to get some this weekend to try on some prok chops I have.

Burp and Slurp~! said...

wow. I've never ever heard of fennel pollen, I don't even know where to get them, but reading your post makes me wanna buy a whole casket of them! yummy scallops!

DEESHA said...

nice click. Iam a big fan of fennel. its got a wonderful flavor

Ricardo said...

Fantastic scallops although I never tried them, I can imagine how they taste, yum yum..and the photo here very descriptive..
thx 4 sharing :D

Sophie said...

This is really cool, I love your post idea! Fennel and pork is tasty, and though I haven't had the pollen, the flavors definitely work :). Have a great weekend!

Varsha Vipins said...

Thats so superb idea..I am totally new to thins thing..Thanks sara..:)

chuck said...

Sara, I love those Sea Scallops. They look delicious. I'm going to keep my eye out for fennel pollen. I've never heard of it and may want to use it in a recipe too. Thanks

Karen said...

I've never tried fennel because I don't care for the licorice taste. But now that I know it's milder when cooked, I'll have to give it a try. You're lucky you live in a big city where ingredients like fennel pollen are available. I basically have Super Wal-Mart and I'm sure they don't carry fennel pollen. LOL

Brilynn said...

I think you could pretty much combine bacon and scallops with anything and I would eat it... looks great!

Pearl said...

scallops look so good!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Your scallops with fennel and bacon look fabulous. I, like others, weren't familiar with fennel pollen and I really appreciate the information you've provided for us. I can't wait to share this recipe with a friend who adores fennel and probably isn't familiar with the pollen.
Sam

Soma said...

Very nice to know about something new. I had no clue that fennel pollen are used for culinary purposes!! I love fennel, I am sure the scallops will be delicous with the flavor.

Natashya said...

Thanks! I was wondering about fennel pollen myself. I will keep an eye out for it.

Girl Japan said...

Hi Sara! This is brain absorbing information darling, I never knew about Fennel Pollen, thank you for the introduction, I wonder if I Can find them in the local super?

Maggie said...

The scallop dish looks fantastic and I love your description of it (IE the comparison to cooked vs raw fennel).

Mommy Gourmet said...

I have never even heard of fennel pollen, now I want to go get some!

Talita said...

How cute! Looks so delicate and delish!

Lori said...

Never heard of it- thanks for the info. I like the spotlight idea.

Yasmeen said...

A very unique ingredient,I love fennel,the pollen must be equally enticing:)

melissa said...

I think I'd first like to try it with pork, since that's the way I see it used most. I have access to it too, so I don't know why in the world I've never used it.

Thanks for the info - good idea for a running series.

Angie  said...

Scallops....almost forgot how they taste as I cannot find them here at all...I grew up in a coastal city and now I live in a city almost no seafood...:-(((

Gina said...

Very nice! Looks like something I would love

Usha said...

Very interesting ! I use fennel and fennel seeds a lot but have never used fennel pollen, your description makes me want to try:-)

Jude said...

Thanks for the great info on this new-to-me ingredient.. Looking forward to more ingredient spotlights!

zegliano said...

I love fennel pollen too. I get mine at http://www.zingermans.com/Product.aspx?ProductID=P-FEN.

Allison
http://lastbite.blogspot.com

Jamie said...

Fennel pollen? Unusual. But I love scallops and this dish looks great!

bd1bae10-31a9-11e1-bf8a-000bcdcb8a73 said...

Fennel Pollen is a tasty little secret that I learned about from Joann Weir when she made baguette wrapped pork tenderloins. Eataly in NYC uses it in their recipes but, they don't sell it. Imagine that. The cooks had a huge shaker of it and were using it on pork. You can find it online, I am still experimenting with it, never thought about trying it on scallops. Yum!

Gexton said...

I'm not familiar with fennel seeds but this is good to know the benefits of this fennel seeds
sesame seeds
fennel seeds