2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, cored and finely diced, plus 2 tablespoons chopped tops of fronds
1 cup pearl barley, or short-grain brown rice
1 small carrot, finely chopped
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups low sodium fat free chicken broth,
1 to 1-1/2 cups water, divided
1/3 cup dry white wine
2 cups frozen pea's or green beans (optional)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup pitted oil-cured black olives or calamatta, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Coat a 4-quart or larger crock pot with cooking spray oil. Crush fennel seeds with the bottom of a saucepan. Combine the fennel seeds, diced fennel, barley, carrot, shallot and garlic in the crock pot. Add broth, 1 cup water and wine, and stir to combine. Cover and cook until the barley (or rice) is tender, but still chewy and the risotto is thick and creamy, 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 hours on high or low.
One half hour before risotto is cooked, cook pea's or green beans per directions. Add the beans, Parmesan, olives, lemon zest and pepper into the risotto. If it seems dry, heat the remaining 1/2 cup water and stir it into the risotto. Serve with boiled shrimps on top and fennel fronds.