Caramelized Fennel with Citrus and Ricotta Recipe


Eating from the Ground Up Recipes for Simple, Perfect VegetablesPanfried BrusselsToward the end of my work on The Homemade Kitchen, I spent a week in the Catskills at the Spruceton Inn. The innkeepers had recently bought the property, a field down a dirt road with two buildings: a house for them to live in and a nine-room classic motel. Casey and Steven are artists who, in addition to creating a getaway for city dwellers, wanted also to invite artists to come and work undisturbed.

I was one of their first artists in residence during the coldest March week I can remember. The mud froze in deep grooves, and the wind whipped around the motel. I wrote from morning until night, and I cooked all my meals on a one-burner stove in the corner of my simple room. I loved it. After over a decade of cooking for a family, a week of cooking exactly what I wanted when I wanted felt like a gift in itself, and it was a perfect opportunity to start dreaming of a vegetable book.

I made versions of this salad a few times over the course of that week, and I made it for Casey on my last day at the inn. I was so excited to have company in my room, and I put that tiny stove to work and filled the table with a real proper lunch. This is so simple and yet fancy. The combination of sweet, caramelized fennel, puckery citrus, and creamy ricotta is fresh and alive in a season of stored roots and hearty greens. You can play with whatever citrus is available to you—blood oranges, pomelos, or anything sweet and tangy would be wonderful.

  • Yield: 4 Servings


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs (about 1½ pounds), trimmed, cored, and thinly sliced lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
  • 1 grapefruit
  • 1 orange
  • 1 cup whole-milk ricotta
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced fresh mint leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
How to Make It
  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the fennel in as close to a single layer as possible; a little overlap is fine. Cover the pan and cook, flipping once or twice, until the fennel is fork-tender and golden, about 10 minutes. Sprinkle the sugar over the fennel and let it cook undisturbed until it makes a caramel, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon juice. Scrape the fennel and all its sauce onto a platter.
  2. While the fennel cooks, section, or supreme, the grapefruit and orange. If you can do this with the fruit in one hand and the knife in the other, cut it right over the platter with the fennel. Otherwise, do your best to trap the juice on a cutting board and add the juice to the platter as you go. To supreme the citrus, slice off the top and bottom poles with a paring knife. Then carefully cut the peel off the fruit from the top to the bottom, removing as much of the pith as possible. Cut along the membranes of the fruit to remove the inner flesh, separating each section and removing any seeds as you go. Layer the fruit over the fennel. Top with generous spoonfuls of ricotta and mint, and season with salt and pepper.

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