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The Trouble with Fennel Seeds & Couscous


I find it hard to believe that the nation’s still not ready for goat cheese (I knew there was no way Bonnie was going to win over high schoolers with breaded goat cheese on Monday’s Hell’s Kitchen). Which is why I find it strange that anyone would enjoy a handful of whole fennel seeds in their salad.
I never ever eat at Cosi and am not in the habit of spending eight bucks for a salad (though I’m currently coveting Starwich’s pricey citrus duck salad and debating whether or not to run out get it—heck, I’ve got a little birthday spending money burning a hole in my pocket) but it was Friday and I get loopy. I only chose it because it was the lowest fat of the three new low fat salads. And it’s certainly not a low fat meal if you eat the fluffy flat bread that comes on the side.

It tasted low fat, all right. It’s the kind of thing I’d make from Cooking Light and have trouble choking down the next night as leftovers. I liked the idea of tandoori chicken and pomegranate dressing. Those two components were fine. The lettuce was neutral. But toasted fennel seeds were foul. Maybe I was putting too much stock in the arugula-ification (MS Word doesn’t even recognize the word arugula) of America because I was hoping they meant fennel pollen. But they said seeds and that’s what they meant. It could be my own bias because I’m not licorice crazy but the anise flavor was completely overwhelming and the seeds kept getting stuck in my teeth. Sure, a little pinch of candy-coated seeds after an Indian meal is refreshing but you don’t necessarily want repeated mouthfuls. The toasted fennel seed and chicken salad nipped my Cosi experimentation right in the bud.


Ok, I gave in to the Starwich urge and they managed to mess up my plan. I had been looking forward to “tender braised duck, torn peppercress, frisee, shaved carrots, Israeli couscous with orange-cherry vinaigrette” and I almost got all that. I tempered my initial desire for a sandwich and went for a salad instead. At least the couscous would add a little heft (to my meal not my body, duh). But after paying my $9.95 and waiting, it turned out that they didn’t have any of the little starchy orbs. The cashier asked the little Mexican guy making the salad what he’d recommend as a substitution and he ended up adding cucumbers and oranges. Not bad really–I barely missed the couscous. There was some serious foliage tangled up in my plastic container, though.  That peppercress is a tough customer and my plastic knife got a work out. It was certainly worth the extra two bucks to avoid fennel seed overload.

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