Tuesday, February 5

Eat Fennel Then Chocolate This Valentine's Day

Last year I said forget chocolate and eat fennel on Valentine’s Day. This year I planned on saying to eat chocolate and forget fennel. (Not to be confused with chocolate-dipped fennel. Ewwww.)

After tasting this fennel and sun-dried tomato risotto, though, I have changed my mind. Here are three reasons why you should eat fennel again this Valentine's Day:

1. Licorice-flavored fennel is believed to have aphrodisiac qualities (and it's a lot prettier than oysters).

2. The risotto is made with white wine, which if your valentine has enough of, might make it easier for you to steal a few kisses before dessert.

3. Risotto is notorious for being difficult to make. It isn't. It takes about 20-25 minutes and doesn't have to be stirred continuously. However, you could tell your valentine that you slaved in the kitchen making risotto from scratch. That should get you a little lovin'.

When selecting fresh fennel, look for firm, unblemished, pearly white bulbs with tall green stalks and flouncy fronds. Its mild licorice flavor pairs beautifully with the robust and slightly salty flavor of the sun-dried tomatoes. Plus it’s red and white.

I'm sending this recipe to my dear friend, Chris of Melecotte, for her Kitchen of Love Event featuring food with aphrodisiac qualities. Don't miss that round-up on Feb. 12th!

Once you've eaten the the risotto, dim the lights, put on some Lou Rawls (yeah, baby), and open a box of chocolates. Not just any chocolates, gourmet chocolates from Chocolate.com.

Liquer infused chocolate truffles from J. Emanuel Chocolatier.

Since we're talking about Valentine's Day, why not splurge on luxurious chocolate truffles? Chocolate truffles are confections made with a chocolate ganache center that is blanketed in a hard chocolate shell. The ganache center, a silky blend of cream and chocolate, can be flavored with liquer, fruit, nuts, and other sweet fillings such as nougat and toffee.

The liquer infused truffles I sampled (courtesy of Mark from Chocolate.com) came in well-loved flavors such as kalhua and ameretto, and more unusual ones like port. Come to think of it, these truffles would go nicely with a glass of port since they're rich and creamy and not overly sweet.

Though traditionally spherical, these truffles are square shaped and beautifully decorated with gold swirls, coffee beans, and white chocolate drizzle. And with a seemingly endless variety of fillings, there's a truffle that will make every person's heart feel full.

After some fennel, wine, and truffles, your sweetheart will surely be feeling amorous. If not, just pop in your favorite DVD and finish off the rest of the truffles. That would put anybody in a good mood.

Fennel and Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto
Makes 2 main or 4 side servings.
Print recipe only here.

2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon butter
1 diced shallot, divided
½ cup Arborio rice (risotto)
2 1/2 cups low-sodium broth, or as much as needed
1/4 cup dry white wine
½ teaspoon fennel seeds
1 cup fennel, chopped
1/8 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes (about 3 tomatoes)
¼ cup heavy cream or half ‘n half
1/8 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/8 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon butter, optional
Salt and pepper, to taste
Good extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Place pinenuts in a small, dry skillet over medium heat. Shake pan in a back-and-forth motion until pinenuts are golden and aromatic, about 1-2 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat broth in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once it's hot, lower to a simmer.

For the risotto, start by sautéing half the shallots in 1 teaspoon olive oil and butter. Add the Arborio rice; toast for about 1 minute. Cook the risotto at a slow simmer, adding heated broth ½ cupful at a time. Most cookbooks will tell to stir continuously; I don’t, and you don't have to either. You can stir occasionally; just make sure the risotto absorbs the liquid before adding more. It will become tender and creamy as it cooks. Season will some salt about halfway through so it blends well, and add the white wine. 4-5 cups of broth works for this recipe, but use more or less as needed. It takes about 20 minutes for the risotto to become completely cooked. Taste it -- it should be wonderfully creamy and thick. It’s best al dente, which means it should still retain some firmness when you chew it.

After about 10 minutes of cooking the risotto, place a large skillet over medium heat. Add the dry fennel seeds and toast for about 1 minute or until aromatic. Then add 1 teaspoon of olive oil, the other half of the shallots, fennel, sun-dried tomatoes, and some salt and pepper. Sauté over medium heat until the fennel becomes slightly softened but not mushy, about 7-8 minutes. At this point, the risotto should be cooked, so add the sautéed fennel to it and stir well. Add the cream or half n’ half; stir until mixed in well and heated, about 1 minute. Turn off heat, then add the Parmesan cheese so it will melt more slowly. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Adding 1 tablespoon of butter at this point adds a touch more creaminess, but it's optional.

Plate your risotto, topping it with the toasted pine nuts and some grated Parmesan. Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top for an extra Mmmmmm and serve immediately.

Like risotto? Then you'll love this Butternut Squash Risotto with Rosemary, Walnuts, and Blue Cheese.

You might also like:
Sicilian Salad of Fennel, Oranges, and Olives
Almond Biscotti Dipped in Chocolate
Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons
Quick Chocolate Cinnamon Mousse with Cherries

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Anonymous said...

Oh yes... why limit yourself? Fennel AND chocolate!
I hadn't heard about this event. Thanks for posting about it!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Risotto is always the way to my husband's heart. He's partial to mushroom risotto, but this recipe just might entice him.

Meeta K. Wolff said...

I think I love your risotto - fennel and sun-dried are a fab combination and although I love love chocolate this risotto would win my heart.

Wendy said...

Adore risotto made with fennel. It gives it a whole new dimension. :)

Anonymous said...

Glad you didn't say skip the chocolate again ;)
I should make some risotto...fennel is not a favourite in the house unfortunately so I'll have to think of something else.

Ivy said...

Fennel sounds so interesting and I am trying to imagine the anise taste of fennel. Next time shall have to try it.

Rosa's Yummy Yums said...

A great post! Your risotto looks wonderful and very tasty!

I love fennel's anise flavor... Why not couple it with chocolate? Actually, I'm sure that it would taste good!



Asha said...

We use Fennel seeds in lot of Indian dishes but some do not like the taste at all. I love the fennel bulb too. Risotto looks delicious!:)

Anonymous said...

I'll admit I don't make risotto that often because I think it takes too long. But I trust you Food Blogga so I'll be trying this recipe! It looks wonderful! -A longtime East Coast reader.

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

Susan, just between you and me, Valentine's Day has often eluded me, but I think you've given me a workable game plan!

Veron said...

Hmm...chocolate. I've never had fennel in risotto. But I'm planning to make risotto with chocolate....

RecipeGirl said...

I'm generally not a fennel fan, but you've convinced me to give it another try!

For chocolates, also try http://www.jers.com/ He's a local San Diego (Solana Beach) chocolatier who distributes handmade chocolates worldwide. Yummy stuff.

Anonymous said...

I've never had a fennel risotto but I like fennel very much and I like risotto very much. Sounds like a good match. And chocolate? Every meal is made better by a little chocolate at the end.

Anonymous said...

So I wonder if oysters flambeed with Pernod have extra aphrodisiac qualities? Hmmm . . . .

Scribbit said...

Okay I'm going to ask a question that might just display my ignorance but as much as I like food and all that I have a hard time distinguishing between close flavors. Brie and Camembert taste the same to me for example--so what's the difference between anise and fennel? Is it like coriander and cilantro (same thing, different form)? or am I a goober for not tasting the difference? To me they both taste like licorice.

Katy said...

When I first read this, I definitely thought the title was "eat chocolate and fennel..." and I really thought it was going to be a chocolate fennel risotto. Thanksfully, I was wrong!

My boyfriend got me a heart-shaped chocolate box (made of chocolate) full of handmade truffles from Bouley Bakery for Valentine's last year... yes, he is a keeper. :-)

PS -- Why DO people think risotto is hard to make? I find that very funny.

Cakespy said...

Fennel and chocolate? Happy to oblige, everything looks so delicious!

RE: Risotto, I think it's not hard to make, but making it WELL requires some panache!

Chris said...

fennel and sun-dried? Is it legal to marry food? :) If so, I do! This looks delicious. Thanks for participating, my friend! You're always so supportive. :)

Mishmash ! said...

Most of my Kerala dishes has got a spice mix where fennel seeds takes the prominent place...i love its distinct flavor and aroma it brings t o the dish..my fav spice :)

Mike of Mike's Table said...

I've been seeing a lot of risottos lately, and everyone of them is different and looks spectacular. This looks like a great combo and sounds delicious

Annemarie said...

But have you *tried* chocolate dipped fennel? Or chocolate flecked with fennel. I'm sure it exists somewhere. Lucky you for getting to sample those lush chocolates.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gattina Cheung said...

I love you ... fennel :)

Nupur said...

What a "love"ly meal this is, Susan! I've never cooked with fennel (the vegetable) and this recipe is calling out to me.

Anonymous said...

We're huge fans of fennel and this recipe looks marvelous. As a matter of fact, we just had some lightly breaded, then fried fennel last night for dinner!
Your blog has some really fantastic recipes!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Oh, Susan, risottos are my sore spot - this looks so good! I want some, please. ;)

Susan from Food Blogga said...

kristen-Oh, good. I hope you're able to submit something to Chris.

lydia-I love risotto with buttery mushrooms too.

meeta-It's won mine too!

wendy-It's a nice variation, for sure.

linda-I've come to my senses. ;)

ivy-It's really lovely with the sun-dried tomatoes. Hope you try it.

rosa-I'm afraid to!

asha-I love the fragrance of the seeds when you toast them.

anonymous-Well thanks! I hope you do give it a try.

tw-Glad to help. :)

veronica-Risotto with chocolate? What time can I come over? ;)

recipgirl-Thanks for the suggestion.

julie-Then you'll love this recipe.

lia-How 'bout you try it and let us know? ;)

michelle-Nope, you're not a goober. Fennel is the bulb to which I'm referring and anise is used for its seeds. It's just that even supermarkets mislabel them, so the terms have become (incorrectly) interchangeable. As for the taste, both have a licorice flavor. I would say anise seed is a bit milder than fennel seed though.

katy-Definitely a keeper. Definitely. :)

cakespy-"Panache." That's a great way to put it.

chris-It's my pleasure. You're always supportive too.

shn-I love fennel seeds too, especially in salad dressings.

mike-It's so deliciously warm and comforting in the winter.

annemarie-I'm sure it does exist, but I'm not too keen to find it. ;)


nupur-Oh, I do hope you try it.

white on rice couple-Thank you for visiting and for the kind words!

patricia-I know! I actually think of you now when I make it.

La Cuisine d'Helene said...

For me it's always chocolate on Valentine. I'm a choco lover.

Anh said...

Susan. I am more towards savoury dishes actually so that risotto dish wins my heart! But then, some chocolate doesn't hurt!

Emily said...

I think this contains all of my favorite foods. Can you believe I just tried fennel last year? I like it. Had it with orange.
How romantic for Valentine's Day...

Chibog in Chief said...

oh i need absolutely to prepare this risooto for my valentine dinner with hubby :-) thanks for the recipe and a beautifully written article :-)

MyKitchenInHalfCups said...

Susan what a wonderful way to enjoy fennel for valentines and the follow with chocolate. But now I have a problem deciding between this and the bluecheese, walnut one to put at the end . . .

Kajal@aapplemint said...

i've had tonnes of fennel seeds but never the fennel bulb. Just havent managed to get my hands on any. But i can almost imagine the flavours. Happy Valentines day to you Susan.

Tracy said...

My husband also things Lou Rawls is the guy for romance. I'm more of a Keith Urban kind of gal. To each his own...

Heather said...

That really looks lervely, Susan. reading that post gave me mushy feelings inside (of the good variety). Sigh! :)

Mansi said...

wow! that sounds like e refreshing combo Susan! as for chocolates, if you still have any left, I'm all set to sample them for you:)

Toni said...

I'm with you on the risotto. Fennel and sun dried tomatoes sounds like a fabulous combination - one I'd try on any day, not just Valentine's Day! As for the chocolate? I'd also take that on any day!

Anonymous said...

Now THATS a plan! :)

Jaime said...

hey susan! i'm actually not sure if i have ever had fennel before (it was probably in a dish and i didn't know it) but i know i have never cooked with it before. but i love risotto and i love sun dried tomatoes, so i'm sure this dish is wonderful.

the chocolate cake is SO good, but despite the name it's very rich and heavy - i could only eat a small slice :) it would be good for a special occasion, like valentine's day

oh, and when i entered your christmas cookie contest i gave you my first name... when i started my blog it was b/c i was inspired by all the food blogs i saw the nest's what's cooking board... so i made my blogger name the same as my nest name, 'MrsPresley' :) not sure if i should just change it to my first name?

bazu said...

I'm glad you kept the fennel, because you'd have to rip that stuff out of my cold, dead hands!

In fact, I even think there's a case to be made for chocolate-covered fennel. Think about it: fennel = anise. Chocolate/anise is a traditional combo. Or, fennel and orange make a great pair. Chocolate/orange is a traditional combo... shouldn't it follow logically that chocolate/fennel would be good...?

Unknown said...

awwwwww... fennel is aphrosidiac, too? i was just thinking about cooking arthicoke for Chris' event, but if fennel is aphrosidiac, then I can just pull them out of the garden! thanks for this info! the risotto looks yummy!

Núria said...

I can smell your risotto in my mind, mmmmm lovely mixture with the fennel and the dried tomatoes. Surely it would get me in the mood... I'm a rice maniac ;-)

daphne said...

beautiful! and the chocolates... hey, comeon, don't compromise.. have both for v-day =)

Deborah Dowd said...

SO glad to see someone ese who thinks a luxurious leisurely dinner at home on Valentine's Day is better that an elbow-to-elbow dining experience in a restaurant. We set up a round table in front of our fireplace,light some candles and really enjoy our dinner (and no tip needed afterwards!)

glamah16 said...

I need to explore fennel. I have been seeing it a few posts lately and in the stores. Thanks for the idea!

MeloMeals said...

Looks great! I could so go for that right now.

Anonymous said...

Your risotto looks like a dream! Beautiful, creamy, flavorful and not too heavy. I'm certainly going to try this recipe!

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

You know, I might just do exactly that...

Stella said...

Hi Susan!
Oh how I missed reading your blog:)
This risotto is wonderful, as always:)
I've got some sundried tomato left, thanks for inspiring me:)

David Hall said...

That is one seriously great risotto! I love the stuff. I'll save this recipe for the summer, mm mmmm!


Annie said...

I love fennel and chocolate, but not in the same dish, so I'm with you on making the risotto and than indulging in the truffles.

If my guy served me this on V-Day, I think I would be his slave for eternity (HEHEHEHE).
Thanks for the great ideas!

Jeanne said...

Erm... I think I'll pass on the chocolate-dipped fennel...! But the risotto sounds fab, and you're right: its not nearly as hard to make as people have you believe. The chocolates look divine too!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

helene-Chocolate's good 365 days of the year.

anh-The risotto wins my heart too. Course that doesn't mean I skipped the chocolates. :)

emiline-Fennel and orange are beautiful together.

dhanggit-I appreciate your kind words.

tanna-That's a tough call. I'm not much help since I'm inclined to say: make both!

kate-Oh, try the bulb. It's wonderful in so many dishes.

heather-Tis the season for a little mushiness. :)

tracy-Lou Rawls, yeah baby.

mansi-Sorry, even the crumbs are gone! ;)

toni-Any day, any time of the year.

maryann-Sure is.

mrspresley-I like MrsPresley. It's unique.

bazu-I see what you mean.

arfi-You have fennel in your garden?! Oh, my.

nuria-Oh, then you'll love this one.

daphne-Both. Definitely both.

deborah-VD dinners, like New Year's Eve dinners, are often sub par at restaurants. I think the poor kitchens are overwhelmed. So we much prefer to stay at home.

glamah16-It's wonderful. I hope you do.

melody-Many thanks.

joythebaker-It's not too heavy, which I really like.

aforkfulofsphaghetti-Good choice.

valentina-It's so great to hear from you!

david-It's a keeper.

annie-The risotto has real power. ;)

jeanne-Smart girl.

Anonymous said...

"The risotto has real power." I guess I need to check it out, then!

Great post and gorgeous photos, as always. Happy Vaentine's Day!

Angel said...

Your risotto looks delicious. I love fennel and tomatos. The great thing about fennel is it's not only an aphrodisiac its a digestive aid. So no tummy aches for your honey on v-day. Woot!!

T-Licious Treats said...

wow Fennel, chocolate...risotto...chocolate..what a wonderful night that will be teehee. Looks great!!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

ann-Thanks for the sweet words.

angel-That's true. I like fennel seeds or anise seeds seeped in hot water when my belly hurts.

sweetdesigns-Oh, thanks!

Anonymous said...

Absolutely beautiful and great combinations, thanks.

Anonymous said...

fennel, wine, and truffles - what a great combination. Can't wait to try this!!