We planted bronze fennel (Foeniculum vulgare 'Purpureum'), which is a culinary herb, in our garden a few years ago and it took off. Each spring it comes back fuller and more vigorous than the year before. By midsummer, the tall, feathery plants are blooming lacy yellow flowers (which eventually bear the tiny aromatic seeds we cook with), just as the first apricots appear at our local orchard. We love the combination of these two flavors: the perfumed apricots and licorice of the fennel. We keep some of the flavorful syrup from the apricots to make a refreshing drink with bubbly Prosecco, or with sparkling water over ice. —The Canal House
branches fennel fronds, preferably with their flowering heads
1 1/2 pounds
apricots, halved and pitted
For the ricotta
finest fresh ricotta
For the apricots, put the wine and sugar into a heavy, wide pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring often, until the sugar dissolves. Add the fennel fronds, peppercorns, and apricots to the hot syrup. Simmer until the fruit has softened but still holds its shape, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Let the apricots cool in the syrup, stirring gently from time to time. Discard the fennel fronds and peppercorns. The apricots will keep in their syrup in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
For the ricotta, using a wooden spoon, mix together the ricotta and sugar in a medium bowl until well blended. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
To serve, divide the ricotta between 6 dessert dishes and spoon some of the apricots and their syrup over them.