I know I have an unforgivable tendency to talk too much about the weather, but really, truly I can't help it. So much of the weather directly effects how we feel, what we wear, what we eat, etc., and it's inherent unpredictability leads me to wonder incessantly about what's coming next.
So in that vein, I have to tell you that we have had rain of biblical proportions lately in the Seattle area. Frequently we have beautiful Indian Summer Septembers, but not so this year. We've had more rain in September than we've ever recorded for the month, ever, and that my friends is sayin somethin.
In fairness I should also mention that we have also had quite possibly, the most beautiful Seattle summer on record so while the rain has been crazy pants ridiculous lately, I really cannot complain. Speak to me in a month and I'm sure I will irritate you to no end about how depressed we all are with grey and cloudy days.
One of the wonderful things about this time of year, this saddle between the seasons, is the still abundant, beautiful produce to be had. In my recent attempts to share some savory dishes with you here, I bought and purchased The Ottolenghi Cookbook (the giveaway featured book). Chock full of jaw droppingly gorgeous food and recipes, in which vegetables dishes feature prominently. On a side note, the dessert and sweet section is just as gorgeous too and I'm rubbing my hands together in glee about it!!
This particular recipe caught my eye and I couldn't, could not, uh-uh no way, get it out of my mind. It's an amazing mix of savory, salty, creamy with the tiniest bit of sweet. When you make it you'll wonder, how do all these flavors work together to make this well, work? Trust me it does. Not only does it work, it knocks it out of the universe.
I made this last Sunday evening whilst the winds were howling, the rain was blowing sideways and upside down and rivers were reaching flood stage. A perfect side to our steak, but really I could eat this all on it's own or with a salad on the side. In fact the next day I did, for lunch, and while it was still pouring rain. For once I wasn't thinking about the rain or the wind or anything else really, and that friends is sayin somethin.
Roasted Fennel, Cherry Tomato and Crumble Gratin
Recipe adapted from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook
2 1/2 lbs. fennel bulbs
3 T. olive oil
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 recipe of crumble (see below)
1/2 C. grated Parmesan cheese
12 oz. cherry tomatoes, some on the vine if you can find them
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. or 200 degrees C. Trim the fennel and cut each large bulb in half, then slice the bulb on the diagonal into 1/2" slices. Place in a large baking pan. Drizzle olive oil over the top, add the leaves from 2-3 sprigs of thyme, the garlic, salt and pepper. Toss. Pour the cream over the top.
Make the crumble:
2 1/2 C. all purpose flour
1/2 C. sugar
3/4 C. plus 1 T. unsalted butter
Place the flour, the sugar and butter in a medium sized bowl and work with your hands or a pastry blender until all the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Set aside half the mixture for the gratin and refrigerate or freeze the other for later use.
Mix the crumble with the Parmesan cheese and scatter the crumble mixture evenly on top. Sprinkle over more thyme sprigs, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle the tomatoes over the top and drizzle lightly with some additional olive oil. Return to the oven (minus the foil), bump up the oven temp to 475 and bake for 15 minutes. Until the top of the dish is golden and the tomatoes begin to soften and wilt.
Remove from the oven, sprinkle with additional thyme if desired and cool slightly before serving.