Anise and fennel: distinct cousins

WHAT'S COOKING?

December 29, 1993|By Rita Calvert | Rita Calvert,Contributing Writer

Q: What is the difference between anise and fennel seed?

A: They are both from the parsley family and both are used in sweet and savory foods, but there are differences between them. According to Mac Barrett, press relations manager at McCormick-Schilling Spices, the anise seed has a more pronounced licorice flavor. Its seed is shaped like a crescent moon and light greenish-gray in color. The fennel seed, which has a delicate and sweeter flavor than anise, is shaped like a watermelon, in colors ranging from gray to yellow-brown. Unlike anise, the entire fennel plant, stem, leaf and seeds can be eaten.

Q: I've seen this vegetable spray coating in my local grocery store that contains flour. Is it really worth buying?

A: If you do a fair amount of baking with recipes that call for greasing and then flouring the pan, this spray can save you the time of getting out a bag of flour and dusting the pans. Many users I know swear by it.

Q: I have almost given up buying carrots because so many of them have been bitter lately. I had heard that this was the result of the floods. How can I find carrots that are sweet and tender, not woody?

A: Weather elements can certainly affect carrots just as they do any other crop. You do have some control over this, however, by looking for the origin of the carrots on the bag, if you are buying them packaged, or by asking the produce person for the origin. )) Avoid purchasing if you know that area has had adverse conditions. After trial and error, I have found carrots originating in California are more consistently sweeter than in other states. Try to buy carrots that are small and have no cracks or sprouted stems.

We'd like to hear from you. Send your questions to: What's Cooking, c/o Food & Home, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278. Or leave us your questions by phone by calling Sundial, the Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800 (268-7736 in Anne Arundel County, 836-5028 in Harford County, 848-0338 in Carroll County). Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6180 after you hear the greeting.

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