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Makes about 1 1⁄3 cups
Lior Lev Sercarz, from "Mastering Spice" by Lior Lev Sercarz
Soft braised fennel replaces egg in this vegan aioli, which is as creamy and smooth as mayonnaise, but with complex flavors from the spiced vegetables. This sauce is great with grilled meat or fish or crab cakes.
Mix together the whole fennel seeds, caraway seeds, celery seeds, and Urfa.
2 medium fennel bulbs, bottoms trimmed, cut into 8 (1⁄2-inch) wedges each
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 orange, ends trimmed (leave the rest of the peel on), cut into 8 (1⁄2-inch) wedges
1⁄4 cup golden raisins
Juice of 1⁄2 lemon
1 1⁄2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 garlic clove
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Put the fennel wedges in a large bowl, drizzle with enough oil to evenly coat, and sprinkle with the main spice blend and a generous pinch of salt. Toss to coat.
Heat a 12-inch skillet over high heat for a minute. Add the fennel in a single layer, arranging the wedges in tight concentric circles, leaving no space between the pieces (reserve the bowl that held the spiced fennel). Reduce the heat to medium-high and cook until the fennel is deeply browned in spots but not burned, about 3 minutes.
Use tongs or a small offset spatula to flip all the fennel wedges and cook until the bottoms are browned, about 5 minutes. Flip the pieces again and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, flipping the pieces and rotating the skillet as needed to redistribute hot spots and prevent any burning, until the fennel wedges are evenly browned, about 2 minutes. Return the fennel to the reserved bowl.
Add enough oil to the skillet to coat the bottom (about 2 tablespoons) and place the orange wedges in a single layer, spacing them apart. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, turning once, until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate.
Quickly return the fennel to the skillet, arranging it in the same tight concentric-circle pattern. Fit the orange between the fennel in concentric circles. Add 1⁄4 cup water to the bowl that held the fennel and then pour it into the skillet along with any spices and accumulated juices.
Scatter the raisins on top, then add the lemon juice and sprinkle with the vinegar. Cover and adjust the heat to maintain a low simmer, turning the fennel and orange slices just once as they cook, until the fennel is tender with just a little bite and has an even caramel color, about 15 minutes.
Cool completely, then transfer 1 packed cup of the fennel wedges to a blender (save the citrus and raisins for another use), along with the garlic clove, apple cider vinegar, and mustard.
Blend until smooth, scraping the bowl occasionally. With the machine running, add olive oil, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the mixture has the consistency of aioli (you’ll need about 6 tablespoons, but the total amount will depend on the moisture in the fennel). Season to taste with salt.