Select the round specimens when you can – these are known as the male bulbs. The female ones are flatter and reputed to be not as tasty because their energy is going into sprouting and going to seed – this is why they are not as round.
Usually when I make caponata I fry the vegetables separately to best preserve the flavour of the individual vegetables and accommodate the different cooking time each vegetable needs, but because the celery and fennel have similar textures I generally cook them at the same time.
All caponate (plural) have an essential agro-dolce (sweet and sour) sauce that makes caponata what it is.
1 medium sized fennel
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 tender celery stalk and some pale green leaves, finely chopped
¼ cup green olives, pitted and sliced
¼ cup capers (if salted, rinsed and soaked)
1 ripe tomato, peeled and chopped (or canned)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbs wine vinegar, white
salt and pepper to taste
Prepare the fennel:
Remove any outer layers of the fennel that look damaged, trim the base and discard. Keep any young, soft fennel fronds to add to the caponata.
Slice the fennel bulbs in half vertically and then into quarters. Continue to cut the fennel into thin slices keeping them attached at the bottom.
Place extra virgin olive oil in the pan and when it is hot add the onion, fennel and celery and sauté until they begin to colour.
Add the olives, capers, tomato and salt. Cover and simmer gently until the fennel has softened (10-15 mins).
Remove the contents from the pan, add sugar to the same pan and stir over medium heat, When it begins to caramelize add the vinegar and evaporate. This is the essential agro-dolce (sweet and sour) sauce.
Return all the contents back into the pan and stir through.
Caponata is presented cold.
Other Fennel Recipes:
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