Ingredients

Anise

Other Names: Anason (Turkish); anice verde (Italian); anis (German, Hebrew, Norwegian, Swedish); anís (Spanish); anis verde (Portuguese); anis vert (French); aniseed; anison (Greek); anisu (Japanese); cay vi (Vietnamese); huei-hsiang (Chinese); jinten manis (Indonesian); kamoon halou (Arabic); saunf (Hindi); sweet cumin.

General Description: Anise (Pimpinella anisum) has small sage green to yellow ochre crescent-shaped seeds similar to caraway in appearance, with a distinct sweet though not overpowering licorice flavor. Anise is native to the Middle East and is widely cultivated in temperate regions of northern Africa, Greece, southern Russia, Malta, Spain, Italy, Mexico, and Central America. Highly regarded in first-century Rome, anise was eaten after the meal in cakes to aid digestion and freshen the breath. Anise is widely used in the manufacture of sweets, cough drops, and, most importantly, in a variety of liqueurs: Italian anisette, Spanish and Latin American aguardiente, Turkish raki, Greek ouzo, and French Pernod, although in many cases less expensive oil of star anise is substituted for all or part of the anise oil.

In Western cuisine, anise is mostly used for breads, cakes, and cookies. It shows up in Indian curry recipes and Mexican recipes with a Spanish heritage. Though fennel and anise are similar in flavor, in Italy fennel is traditionally reserved for savory foods like fresh pork sausage, while anise goes into all sorts of sweets, such as pizzelle cookies.

Purchase and Avoid: Anise seed is best purchased whole, as the ground powder quickly loses its flavor.

Storage: Whole anise seed keeps up to 3 years. Dry-roast anise seeds to heighten their aroma and make them brittle and easy to crush. Store ground anise in a clean, dry jar and use within 6 months.

Serving Suggestions: Make biscotti with walnuts, diced figs, and ground anise seeds. Simmer carrots with a little sugar, butter, ground anise seeds, salt, and pepper until tender. Toast anise seeds in hot oil and pour over cooked lentils, Indian-style, as a fragrant, sizzling garnish.

Food Affinities: Almond, apricot, black pepper, butter, eggs, fig, honey, lemon zest, orange zest, peach, sugar, walnut, vanilla.

from Quirk Books: www.quirkbooks.com