Written by Mary F. Pisarkiewicz

I want to talk about fennel. I adore fennel. It has benefits of a digestive aid. I love it raw or as a dipping vegetable. I love it roasted. Fennel seeds are also great toasted and then added to dishes either as is or after first being ground into a powder. Fresh fennel fronds are terrific on pasta, with just some olive oil, salt and pepper. This is one dish that my son remembers best from the six months he lived in Italy. I also stuff the fennel fronds and stalks inside a chicken cavity before roasting. Yummy!

Here’s a big crown roast of pork that I made for Christmas Day dinner that used fennel seeds, both toasted and ground, along with fennel pollen, which is an expensive spice here, although maybe not in South Africa. Actually, I have just learned that “fennel pollen” is a misnomer. It is really the powder from the small wild yellow flowers, and it is the most potent form of fennel. If you cannot find fennel pollen, no worries. You can make this recipe without it… just don’t forget to cook with LOVE! You may also want to try this recipe for a Zucchini, Fennel, Red Pepper and Mint Torta


adapted from Melissa Clark and The New York Times
serves 12 – 16

2 heaping tsp. fennel seeds
4 – 5 bushy sprigs rosemary leaves
7 – 8 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup fresh sage leaves and tender sprigs
Lemon peel strips from 1 lemon – thinly peel the lemon with a vegetable peeler
2 tsp. fennel pollen (optional)
1 heaping tbs. plus 1 pinch coarse kosher salt
1 heaping tsp. cracked black pepper
7 tbs. extra-­virgin olive oil
1 crown roast of pork (18 ribs)
4 large onions, peeled and cut into ¼” slices

In small skillet, toast fennel seeds until fragrant, 1 to 2 minutes.

Place toasted fennel seeds, rosemary, garlic, sage, lemon peel, fennel pollen (if using) and all of the salt and pepper in a food processor. Pulse processor to chop everything up. Add olive oil slowly, and blend until the mixture becomes a paste, scraping down sides occasionally with a rubber spatula.

Wipe pork very dry with paper towel and then smear the herb paste all over the meat, making sure to coat the middle and the crevices on the sides of the chops.

Wrap in plastic wrap and let marinate for 24 hours in the refrigerator.

Bring the meat to room temperature for at least 1.5 hours before roasting.

Heat oven to 450 degrees.

Put a thin film of olive oil in the bottom of your roasting pan and spread it around with your fingers. Place onion slices down to form a rack for your roast. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top of the onions and salt and pepper them. Place your roast on top and roast for 20 minutes at 450 degrees, then turn the heat down to 350 and continue roasting until meat registers 145 degrees on an instant-read thermometer; this should take about 1-1/2 to 2 hours longer. Let rest 20 minutes before carving.

About The Author

My name is Mary Frances. I am a designer, creative director, painter, wife, mother and cook. I own an internationally recognized, award-winning brand development and marketing communications firm in New York City, and am a graduate of Parsons School of Design. I especially love to cook and serve great food to make people content and happy. Hearing mmmm’s makes my heart soar. I grew up in suburban St. Louis, in Webster Groves, the youngest of six and the only girl. (Yes, that’s FIVE older brothers!) My mom was a great home cook, and she made sure that I could make a mean pie from scratch. After Parsons, I married, had two boys and moved from NYC to the NJ suburbs where I threw myself into cooking and entertaining. Now it’s time for me to share the great recipes, tips, stories and LOVE with you. The inspiration for LOVE – the secret ingredient www.lovethesecretingredient.net came from our youngest son when he wrote in a gift cookbook that the one ingredient that was ever-present in my meals was love. When you cook with LOVE, everything just tastes better.

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