Kabob Party-Wild Fennel Pollen Salmon Skewers

My kabobs keep clicking. This is Day 5 of my weeklong series dedicated to everything skewered and grilled. Today I have Grilled Salmon Skewers with Wild Fennel Pollen.

But this is Day 5 and I have pretty much covered all the details you may ever need to know about the humble kabob. Everything from cooking simple one-ingredient skewers all the way to how to choose and prep ingredients when there are several choices stuck on the stick.

So I have decided to use the power of the kabob to highlight an ingredient that you may not be familiar with, or perhaps you just don’t use enough. Wild Fennel Pollen.

Now the name is pretty self-evident ‘cuz Wild Fennel Pollen is exactly what it says it is. The pollen from wild fennel! It is a typical Tuscan ingredient, where it is called finocchio. Hand collected from the flowers of wild fennel growing on the coastal and inland fields and open spaces in warm weather climates like Tuscany and California.


fennel pollenAs a cook, Fennel Pollen is a new ingredient for me. I was given a sample by Justin at Marx Foods. I’ve never tasted anything else quite like it. It is intensely flavorful, reminiscent of anise but not quite the same. It is both sweet and pungent, though it has floral notes that smell deeply of everything you love about fennel and then some. It’s exhilarating– intoxicating even.

Having trouble picturing it? It looks like fluffy, yellow colored sand. It is surprisingly easy to use too– mix it with a pinch of sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper and sprinkle it on to chicken, fish, potatoes or almost anything before cooking. It’s the quintessential Tuscan ingredient for anything made with pork, especially salumi. I have even seen it is used to make fennel pollen pesto. I need to research that recipe because I’d like to try it.

My grilled salmon kabobs are brined in an anise-flavored sweet and salty mixture. I am threading thin slices of fennel bulb with the fish too. You could blanch the fennel first if you prefer a milder flavor. But I like the crunch and the sweet licorice flavor that comes from adding them to the skewers raw.

Grilled Salmon Skewers with Wild Fennel Pollen serves 4 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 1⁄4 c brown sugar
  • 3 T kosher salt
  • 1 q cool water
  • 1⁄2 c anise liqueur
  • 1 1⁄2 lb salmon, skin removed and cut into 1 1/2″ chunks
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, trimmed, quartered & cored
  • 1 T wild fennel pollen or ground fennel seed
  • salt and pepper to taste

salmon skewersTo brine the salmon: Combine, sugar, salt, water,in a non-reactive bowl. Add salmon, cover and refrigerate 4 to 8 hours. Remove from brine and pat dry.

Separate the outside layers of the fennel bulb quarters from the inside softer heart. This should leave you with several shaped pieces all about 1 1/2″ in size. The variety of shapes is good and will give you a variety of textures.

Thread the fennel and the fish onto water-soaked bamboo skewers. Alternating them. Make sure to include some of the flat outer pieces of fennel as well as the soft interior pieces on each skewer.

Sprinkle each skewer with wild fennel pollen and plenty of salt and pepper.

Prepare a charcoal grill until the coals are white but are still glowing red and quite hot. Spread the coals into a single layer and cook the kabobs, for 3 or 4 minutes per side. You goal is for the salmon to be charred a bit on the outside but remain medium-rare and succulent on the inside. The fennel will also get charred but should remain a bit crunchy.

Serve warm.


Greg Henry

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