approx. 45 mins
Serves 4 as an appetizer
Large sauté pan with lid
4 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed (1 2/3 lb)
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus extra)
15 large cloves garlic, skin on
¼ cup verjuice (or mix ¼ cup lemon juice w/ 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar)
1 small tomato diced
1 cup vegetable stock
2 ½ Tablespoons capers
3 ½ Tablespoons black wrinkly olives in oil, halved and pitted
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 ½ teaspoons superfine sugar
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
6 ½ Tablespoons ricotta (to serve, optional)
Slice the trimmed fennel top to bottom into ¾” thick slices. In a large, lidded sauté pan, brown the slices in the olive oil over a medium heat until lightly caramelized on both sides. Do this in batches, seasoning with salt and pepper and adding extra oil as needed.
Once all the fennel is seared and removed from the pan, add the whole unpeeled garlic cloves and fry for about 3 minutes until the skin is blackened all over. Be sure to use all 15 cloves – once scorched they mellow and add sweetness to the tartness of the dressing.
Turn the heat down to medium and carefully add the verjuice. Deglaze the pan and reduce to about 2 Tablespoons of liquid. Add the tomato, about 7 Tablespoons of stock, capers, olives, thyme, sugar and ¼ teaspoon of salt and some black pepper. Simmer for 2 minutes and return the fennel slices to the pan.
Add the rest of the stock, cover and simmer for about 12 minutes, turning the slices once during cooking, until they are completely soft and the sauce has thickened. If needed, remove the lid and turn the heat up to reduce and thicken the sauce.
Divide the fennel slices between the plates, spoon over the sauce. Serve with a spoonful of ricotta (if using) and some lemon zest. Finish with a drizzle of olive oil and serve warm or at room temperature.
(adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi)