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"Spaghetti" Sauce and fennel seed

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

Hi; newby alert.

 

I didn't grow up cooking, my housewife mother wouldn't let me, but from her I did learn what tasted good.  I've been experimenting with different recipes, including my mothers spaghetti sauce that I grew up loving.  When we were young, she would use fennel seed, but can't remember (old age, and old style cooking) how much and how she made it with the fennel.  Knowing that toasted fennel is used in sausage, I wondered if I should toast it first, prior to putting it with the ground turkey (my 'updated' version of her recipe) or throw it in the sauce as is.  Also, is it better to add the spice when browning the meat (or meats--italian sausage and turkey) or when I add the tomato's? 

 

The 'jist' of my mother's alzhiemers remembered recipe:

 

Blanch tomato's; let sit for 15 and skin.

 

Brown 1 lb ground beef (don't drain)

 

Add 4 onions (yep, four), and 1 green bell pepper, fresh chopped garlic, bay leaf(s) (I'd add fresh basil and some oregano here and with more fresh garlic as well in the sauce later)

 

Add at least 8 tomatoes (she keeps all seeds and juice for a long cook), can(s) of tomato sauce and maybe paste and canned diced tomatoes if needed.

 

Salt and sugar.

 

Bring to boil and simmer for as long as it takes.

 

 

 

I've tried to point out my mother's differences with other recipes I've read.  Besides my own version of this recipe (turkey sub, italian sausage added, and fresh garlic sautaed mushrooms in the last 30 minutes), what do you think about fennel?  Toasted or not? 

 

What I really need to know is, what flavour does it add, whether toasted or not.  I may end up trying both ways down the line, but, your thoughts on the flavours is appreciated!  Thanks.

 

Jonathan

 

 

 

 


Edited by DevelopingTaste - 8/17/11 at 8:20am
post #2 of 10

It's a licoricey anise flavor, distinct but not overpowering. One I prefer not to have in most meat related Italian cooking personally.  It's use in meat/sausage is more Italian-American than native though there are exceptions.

 

If it's what you like though, more power to you. Start with a light hand as it doesn't take much to impart the flavor. You can also grind it, which I prefer as opposed to getting a whole strong seed in my meat. I'd add it with the meat.

 

The fennel bulb is used as a vegetable cooked and fresh and I like that in Italian cooking.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 10
Thread Starter 

Never knew today that fennel bulbs existed and learned that they don't even come from the same plant used for the seeds.  I was immediately facinated.  I definitely will try the fennel bulbs sometime down the line.  Thanks for your reply.  Especially interesting your note about American Italian vs Italy Italian in general.  I did have a lady come through my register (few years ago) that was Italian who said her Italy born mother swore by it; but as you hinted at, there are regional differences in Italy.

 

I'm not a fan of 'licorice' in my spaghetti, as I heard about the flavour described to me years ago, but when I checked with the Italian sausage package I was using, trying to identify the flavour I was loving, the only thing the seemed to stand out was the fennel.

 

Concerning ground fennel, is that typically toasted first, prior to grounding?

post #4 of 10

I don't toast it usually, but I am always cooking it when I use it ground.

 

I've toasted it whole in some Indian dishes though it usually gets ground again afterwards.

 

Madhur Jaffrey does a dish  of cabbage to taste like Fennel that I quite like though it keeps the seeds whole.

 

http://books.google.com/books?id=42bkqsHlsNYC&pg=PT97&lpg=PT97&dq=madhur+jaffrey+cabbage+fennel&source=bl&ots=9h6219qcX1&sig=pToB0SKDNNd2z2d1tS0Di5LRgw4&hl=en&ei=FuFLToyOB4bgiAKtrP2nAQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=3&ved=0CCQQ6AEwAg#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

I don't use as much oil as she does. Isn't necessary.

 

 

 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #5 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks!  I like the recipe; looks very delicious.  Cabage is not used enough in home cooking today, and there are some amazing recipes out there.  (Thanks Mom for all those delicious cabbage dinners).

post #6 of 10

I think you end up with a deeper more intense flavor by toasting the seed. What this does is it releases the oil in the seed. Try it toasting it and not toasting it and see which one you like.

 

Fennel seed is also used heavily in Italian sausage.

Thanks,

Nicko 
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Thanks,

Nicko 
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post #7 of 10

I often use it in my red sauce.  Toast lightly and then roughly crush before adding.  I use a mortar and pestle. It is a distinct flavor so the amount is really to taste.  I like it and use quite a bit - say 2 tsp in a single recipe using 2 x 28 oz cans of tomatoes.  You can certainly use less.

post #8 of 10

I hope I'm not too far off-topic in mentioning that I heard fennel was helpful in losing weight. Can any of you substantiate or quash this rumor?

post #9 of 10

I don't know about losing weight with fennel.....

 

Nick Stellino (don't know if you ever heard of him) has a great sauce with fennel called 'pasta alla crema di finocchio". This sauce was introduced to me by my friend who owns an Italian deli.

I have used it fresh , toasted and in seed. Normally I use 1 tsp. it has a wonderful flavor but too much of it can ruin a sauce.

Fennel is my secret ingredient in potato salad along with cider vinegar ..........heads may shake but its my mother's recipe , one which I learned working along side her cheffing at  an estate years ago.

 

The outside bulb is tough ....but I enjoy eating it just like celery. Trim the base , take off the first 2 big stalks (too tough to eat or too stringy) and enjoy it the way it is. Great in a stir fry as well.

 

@ Developing Taste : I really enjoyed your post, giving the background on your post made it all the more interesting....thank you .

 

......just a thought.

Petals
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Petals
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post #10 of 10
Thread Starter 

Thanks petals,

 

I look forward to trying the fennel vegetable; it seems so interesting a choice for a pasta meal or stir fry.  

 

Appreciate the kind words.  Food is about my mother's love, and will always be that for me: the memories, the smells and simple flavours.  Unfortunately, my mother's memory is not the only difficulty that effects her food enjoyment today: she suffers from Celiac Disease and lost her sence of taste and smell.  I can't think of a tougher health condition for a former celebrated cook (her apple pies are legendary...).  We love her, and she's entitled to retire, right?  Hopefully, I'll do her proud.

 

 

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