Looking at certain cookbooks is like visiting a friend, or meeting someone who loves something as much as you do, and you instantly feel a connection. I guess that is why I love the Ottolenghi books so much. Many times I read something in one of his books and think, wow I feel exactly the same way about that! In the paragraph above this recipe he writes “magic” of Verjuis and how it offer the “sweet tartness of lemon juice and acidity of vinegar, without the harshness of either.” If you don’t know about it, Eatwell is now producing Verjuis from the vines on our farm, which many of your members helped to plant! Verjuis is the juice from the unripe grapes that we thin out in early summer, AND you can order it as an extra item to be delivered with your CSA share.
About 1 2/3 lb Fennel bulb, trimmed
About 3 TB Olive Oil, plus extra to finish
15 large Cloves Garlic, skin on 2 1/2 oz)
1/4 cup Verjuis or a mixture of 1/4 Lemon Juice and 2 TB Red Wine Vinegar
1 small Tomato, cut into 1/2” dice about 1/3 cup
About 1 cup Vegetable Stock
2 1/2 TB Capers
3 1/2 TB black wrinkly Olives, pitted and cut in half
1 TB chopped thyme Leaves OR use Eatwell Farm Thyme Salt
2 1/2 tsp Superfine Sugar
6 1/2 TB Ricotta (optional)
1 tsp grated Lemon Zest
Salt and Black Pepper
Cut the trimmed fennel from top to bottom along the longest side into slices 3/4” thick. Place 2 TB of the olive oil in a large sauté pan for which you have a lid and place over medium-high heat. Add half of the fennel along with a pinch of salt and good grind of black pepper. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, turning once, so that both sides are nice and browned. Remove from the pan and repeat with the remaining fennel, adding more oil, if needed, and seasoning as you go. Once all the fennel is seared and removed from the pan, add the garlic cloves and a tiny bit of oil, if needed (a thin film of oil is enough here), and fry for about 3 minutes, tossing occasionally, so that the garlic skin gets scorched all over. Turn down the heat to medium before carefully adding the verjuice. Let it reduce for a couple of minutes to about 2 TB liquid. Add the tomato, 7 TB of the stock , the capers, olives, thyme, sugar, 1/4 tsp salt and some black pepper. Bring to a simmer for 2 minutes before returning the fennel to the pan. Add the remainder of the stock, cover the pan, and simmer for about 12 minutes, turning once during the cooking, until the fennel is completely soft and the sauce has thickened. You might need to remove the lid and increase the heat for the final 2 or 3 minutes of cooking, to reduce and thicken the sauce. Place 2 slices of fennel on each plate, spoon, the sauce over the slices and 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 temp.