This fennel & tomato gratin makes a wonderful side. It hails from the South of France and is perfect if you want something a little different. It’s quick to make and quite delicious with both fish and chicken. It’s also great if cancer is in the equation, too. The tomatoes are packed with cancer-fighting lycopene, and fennel is easy on the digestive system. If you want to cut out the dairy, just leave out the cheese from the breadcrumbs for a Mediterranean-style, vegan treat.
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the quick tomato sauce as outlined here.
2. Halve the fennel bulbs and parboil in salted water for about 10 minutes or until they are just soft and slightly translucent looking. Drain. Cut into quarters. If the bulbs are very large, cut each half into 3 pieces. Set aside.
3. Toss the breadcrumbs and the cheese together in a bowl. Set aside.
4. Bring the Quick Tomato Sauce to a boil over a medium high flame in a wide sauté pan. Stir in the white wine, lower the heat to medium and simmer until the sauce has thickened, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside.
5. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of a shallow gratin dish, about â…“ cup. Place the fennel cut sides down on top of the sauce in a tight single layer. Pour the rest of the sauce over them and spread evenly.
6. Sprinkle the fennel with the breadcrumb mixture until you have a generous crust. Drizzle with the olive oil and bake for 30 minutes covered with foil, then 10 minutes uncovered, or until the breadcrumbs are golden.
Ann's Tips and Tricks
The white wine adds a hint of sharpness that makes a great foil to the sweetness of the fennel, but if you don’t want to add the wine to the Quick Tomato Sauce, just skip step 4.
Don’t throw out the fennel stalks and their fine frond-like leaves. The stalks are perfect to use instead of celery when making a flavor base for soups or stews, and the fronds make a wonderful stuffing for fish or chicken.
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