WHAT? Obscure no more. Once a little known spice used by Tuscans on meat or in soups and stews, fennel pollen was introduced to an American audience by food writer Faith Willinger, an American who has lived in Italy for nearly a quarter of a century. In the 1990s she brought American chefs like Mario Batali to a butcher shop in Panzano, Chianti, owned by Dario Cecchini, who sells specialty products of the area, including fennel pollen. The flowers of the blossoming wild fennel plant are coated in a mass of yellow pollen and, when shaken loose, the powdery condiment imparts a sweet fennel flavor and aromatic flowery scent. Batali was quick to incorporate the spice in his repertoire. As he explained to us a few years ago, "You sprinkle a tiny dusting on something hot, and it gives you this heady fennel perfume. It's amazing." This once hard-to-find spice, which marries wonderfully with a variety of ingredients, including pork, mussels, and even dark chocolate, is now popping up on menus everywhere.
WHEN? April 11, 2015
HOW? Burrata with Pickled Shiitake Mushrooms, Bitter Herbs, and Fennel Pollen on Lavash