Can you tell me the difference between anise and star anise?
— Linda G., Medford
The licorice-like flavor of anise, or anise seed, has been popular since ancient times. It turns up in drinks from Greek ouzo to French pastis and in breads and pastries from Europe through the Mediterranean and all the way to India.
The flavor comes from a volatile oil in the seed, called anethol.
Star anise, found almost exclusively in Asia, comes from a different plant, a relative of the magnolia tree, but it also has anethol.
It's a dried fruit with a distinctive star shape that usually has eight points, or carpels. The flavor is very similar, but a little more bitter. It's one of the ingredients in Chinese five-spice powder.
Try this recipe for shrimp in anise-flavored liqueur.
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 cup coarsely chopped shallots
2 cups sliced fennel bulb
3/4 pound peeled shrimp
1/4 cup Pernod or Ricard
2 tablespoons heavy cream
In a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, heat the oil. Add the shallots and fennel and saute for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add the shrimp and saute for another minute, tossing them in pan. Pour in the Pernod and, as soon as liqueur is hot, tip pan and let liqueur catch gas flame. If using an electric stove, ignite with a match. Remove from heat while flame dies down. Have a cover nearby.
Return pan to heat and add 2 tablespoons water. Let shrimp simmer for 2 to 3 minutes or until they turn pink. Remove with a slotted spoon. Raise heat and reduce pan juices by half. Add the cream and cook on low for 1 minute. Return shrimp to pan and coat in sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Makes 2 servings.
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