Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fennel, tomato and garlic gratin

Hello everyone, I seem to be going through one of those times where I am eating out nearly every day. In the last two years I caught myself in the habit of going back to just a small number of really good reliable places, which is always good, but this year I'm trying to actually go to all the places I read about and think "That sounds good, I should try there some time". Thankfully I have friends willing to be bossed around and told where we are eating!

So this week just gone I finally got to La Locanda in Bronte which has been on my list for about three years (not that Bronte is that far away, it was just a matter of finding an occasion to go out with my Eastern suburbs dwelling friends) (and it was beautiful, well worth the wait), and then I was lucky enough to be taken to Cafe Sydney the next day, where I had the most luscious home made gnocchi. It was heaven. Tonight I do get to go back to an old favourite (Young Alfred, Customs House) as I'm going to see a play at the Opera House, and then next Friday I'm lucky enough to be going to lunch at my current absolute favourite, Catalonia in Kirribilli! So I guess I haven't completely let go of the old reliables....

Of course all this restaurant gallivanting does mean less time for cooking. And no matter how good someone else's cooking is, it does calm me down to cook something for myself. This week's dish is something I did just recently and was beautiful. I love fennel and it's really just coming into the best time of year for it. The recipe comes from my lovely Growers Market book.

Have a great week, love from Jane xx

Fennel, tomato and garlic gratin
Serves 4, and you can either serve it as a side dish to a main or with something simple like some good bread and cheese.

What you need:
  • 2 bulbs of fennel, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup good olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 450g ripe tomatoes

Gratin topping:
  • 60g fresh white breadcrumbs (you get a really good effect if you keep the crumbs large and chunky)
  • 65g grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspooons grated lemon zest
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed

What you do
  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  2. Grease a 22cm square gratin dish.
  3. Heat the oil in a large frying pan.
  4. Cook the onion for a few minutes until softened.
  5. Add the garlic and cook briefly, then add the fennel and cook for seven minutes, stirring frequently, until softened and golden brown.
  6. Cut a cross at the base of each tomato and place them in a bowl. Pour over boiling water and let stand for 20 seconds and then cool with cold water. Peel the skins off the tomatoes and discard.
  7. Chop the tomato flesh roughly and add to the fennel. Cook, stirring frequently, for five minutes, or until the tomato is softened.
  8. Season the vegetables well and pour into the gratin dish.
  9. Mix together the gratin ingredients, sprinkle over the vegetables and bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown and crisp.
  10. Serve immediately.