At the Sunday at the Fairmount Neighborhood Farmers Market this week you'll find pastured meats and eggs from Fair Valley Farm and Fog Hollow Farm and fresh produce from Camas Swale Farm, including lots of melons, tomatoes, corn, basil, parsley, and fennel.
To make a garnish for a pound of Hideaway Bakery ravioli, I experimented with deeply caramelizing diced fennel bulb like shallots or scallions, cooked well past "glassy," almost to the point of "burnt." This treatment mellowed the anise flavor and brought out a nutty sweetness that added complexity to a rich cream sauce, once again proving the utility of the Maillard reaction.
Caramelized Fennel1 fennel bulb
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
salt and pepper to taste
Wash and trim the fennel bulb, reserving the fronts for stock or garnish. Cut the bulb like an onion into a 1/4 inch dice. Heat a skillet over medium heat. When it is hot, add the oil and butter. When the butter foams, add the diced fennel and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently and watching it like a hawk to ensure that the fennel pieces brown nicely but do not burn, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat, taste and season with more salt and pepper, and serve on top of your favorite pasta or grain dish.