Spices and Seasons – Fennel and Fall
I realized just musing through things, despite the name of this column being Spices and Seasons, I do not necessarily associate spices with select seasons. There, I said it, I do not often think of spices as seasonal, however, spices are like wine they accompany and compliment the food being cooked.
Therefore, if you cook with the seasons like me, you will tend to lean towards certain spices depending on the season. So, for example in fall, there are a lot of sweeter flavors in my pantry – squashes, maple, pomegranates and pears just to name a few. I have been leaning towards stews and cooking more meat like the pork stew that I had cooked last week, all of these pull you towards sweeter and fragrant spices – yes, cloves and cinnamon and one of my favorite spices being fennel. These green anise like seeds are very popular in my household, and we use them for both sweet and savory cooking.
The Bengali Five spice blend that I love enough to have named my first cookbook after, also includes fennel along with fenugreek, mustard seeds, cumin and the shiny nigella seeds.
Fennel belongs to the parsley family just like cumin and is sometimes referred to as sweet cumin. It is popular in the cuisine of India and several Asian countries, such as Sri Lanka, Malaysia and China just to name a few. It is often used in Italian sausage and possibly adds a sweet anise like note to the food and happens to be favorite spice of Chef Mogan Anthony, the Executive Chef over at Village Social. I enjoyed chatting with Mogan about fennel and other things and you can read all about it right here.