On my first trip to the cinema here in New York I saw “Julie & Julia“. Since this film is about food and blogging I thought it would be right up my alley, and it was! I remember when I was in Paris this June I was also looking for a French cookbook in English, but I didn’t have any trouble finding one (unlike Julia Child). I picked up a copy of “a little taste of… france” which has some classic French recipes, including Boeuf bourguignon, one of the dishes prepared in the film. As I watched the film I realised that I have only tried one recipe from this book, so I decided it was time to get back into the kitchen. My roommate, Brittany, is a semi-vegetarian (she eats chicken and fish) so I decided to pick a vegetarian recipe. I had today off from school so I had some time on my hands to get fresh ingredients. I went down to the Chelsea market, recommended by my Time Out New York book. I have to admit I wasn’t very impressed by the market. I have visited some amazing markets around Europe (I think my favourite so far is the market in Valencia, Spain) and the Chelsea market just didn’t compare to the standards I have seen before. But I did find everything I was looking for, although it was a little too expensive for my student wallet. Next time I will try the Union Square market which I have heard is really good on Wednesdays.
Back to the recipe… I haven’t cooked much with fennel before, but when I have it has always been in some kind of fish and tomato soup. I love the smell of fennel and I quite like to eat it raw as well. I really love garlic a lot so I always add more than the recipe calls for, in this one too. I have left the recipe as is, so you can decide for yourself whether or not you want to add extra garlic. I didn’t encounter any problems making this recipe, but I have a few recommendations on how to make it easier for you. Firstly, the recipe says to boil the tomatoes for 20 seconds before skinning them. I would recommend 30-40 seconds as I struggled trying to get the skin off my first few tomatoes. Secondly, I would make sure to use day-old bread. I used really fresh bread and it was very difficult to make the crumbs.
I have to say that I was very pleased with how this turned out. The taste was amazing! I didn’t expect the lemon flavour to come through as well as it did and the crispiness of the crumb topping worked really well with the soft tomatoes. I put half the batch in the freezer and I am already looking forward to defrosting and reheating it one day in the not so distant future. This is also a fairly healthy meal, with at least two portions of your daily serving of vegetables. Olive oil contains healthy fats and the parmesan adds calcium to the dish, but if you are worried about calories I would just cut down a little on both of those ingredients. I served this with a side of chicken, but I think a white fish like sea-bass would be really good with this too. Next time I will try adding some herbs, basil or thyme are always good with tomato. I highly recommend this recipe I and hope you will try to make it!
Recipe (serves 4)
I kg fennel bulbs
500 g tomatoes
80 ml olive oil
1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
60 g white bread, broken into crumbs
65 g grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1 garlic clove, crushed
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Cut the fennel in half lengthways and slice thinly.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion for 3-4 minutes until softened but not browned.
- Add the garlic and cook for two minutes.
- Add the fennel and cook, stirring frequently for 7 minutes until softened and lightly golden brown.
- Meanwhile, score a cross in the top of each tomato, plunge into boiling water for 20 (30-40) seconds, then peel the skin away from the cross. Chop roughly and add to the fennel. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes until the tomato is softened. Season to taste.
- To make the gratin topping, mix together all the ingredients (if I had a working food processor I would probably just throw all the ingredients in together and chop), sprinkle over the vegetables and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Serve immediately.
Source: a little taste of… france