Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Pumpkin Fennel Tian with Bacon & Black Olives - a Recipe
Some of you may remember my post from June for an Early Summer Tian. A tian (pronounced as one syllable: tyahnn) is a Provençal vegetable casserole named for the earthenware dish in which it is baked. Tians can be remarkably beautiful – especially, I think, when the ingredients are arranged on their sides in multi-colored rows – and this makes them a fantastic way to celebrate whatever’s in season at that particular moment. It’s easy to imagine their originating as a way to use up the glut in home gardens, harvest by harvest, across the south of France.
Right now, our greenmarkets here in New York are brimming with heaps of anise-redolent fennel and stunningly bright orange pumpkins. It feels festive – even though it’s still unseasonably warm – and I was thrilled when Charlotte of The Great Big Vegetable Challenge suggested we come up with some pumpkin recipes for her son Freddie’s P is for Pumpkin tasting.
For those of you not familiar with Charlotte’s work, her fantastic blog – an alphabetical exploration and adventure through the perils and pleasures of vegetable eating – was launched when Freddie’s abject horror of peas reached epic proportions. He and his sister Alex have risen to each challenge admirably, and both now have exceptionally adventurous palates. Freddie even learned to like peas earlier this month!
This time, Charlotte’s made an irresistible Pumpkin and Smoky Bacon Risotto, David Hall at Book the Cook offers a sumptuous Spiced Pumpkin, Bacon and Mussel Conchiglie, Hannah of Hannah’s Country Kitchen’s offering Freddie her delicious Pumpkin Cheesecake Muffins, and Alanna of A Veggie Venture has made a beautiful Whole Roasted Pumpkin. And Freddie, my friend, I would also like to point you in the direction of my Pumpkin Hazelnut Gelato from earlier this month.
Fortunately, Freddie feels fairly indulgent towards pumpkins – these recipes are so tantalizing, and Halloween is right around the corner, after all – so I thought that roasting them in a tian to caramelize them into earthy sweetness would be a great way to savor the flavors of October.
I’ve tossed the pumpkin and fennel slices with thyme, parsley, and the fennel bulb’s fronds, as well as with some lemon zest for brightness. And for this tian, I’ve used streaky bacon and oil-cured Provençal black olives as the topping - both of which go slightly crisp, which I love. I think you may be surprised by how satisfying a supper the dish can make – it’s true home food: easy, rustic, and infinitely adaptable.
1 2 ½ - 3 lb pumpkin
1 bulb fennel, stalks removed and fronds reserved and chopped
extra virgin olive oil
6 stems of thyme, leaves chopped
1 handful fresh parsley leaves, chopped, plus a little more for serving
zest and juice of one lemon
freshly ground black pepper
3 – 4 slices streaky bacon, snipped into half-lengths
small handful oil-cured black olives
Preheat the oven to 425 F
Using a sharp knife, slice the top and base off of the pumpkin. Set it on its now flat base and, working from top to bottom, carefully, slice off the rind in strips, cutting off as little flesh as possible. Cut the peeled pumpkin in half from top to bottom. Using a sturdy metal spoon, scoop out the web of fibers and seeds. Cut each half into narrow half-moon wedges.
Trim the base of the fennel bulb and the cut in half from top to bottom. Cut each half into thin wedges, being careful to include a little of the core in each wedge to keep it intact.
Toss the pumpkin and fennel slices in a bowl with a good glug of olive oil, the fennel fronds, thyme, parsley, lemon zest, and plenty of salt and pepper.
In a large earthenware or cast iron dish, arrange the vegetable slices vertically with narrow sides pointing up – you want the tips to roast brown and sweet in the oven. Pack them in tightly in a single layer (see photo below), and them sprinkle with any herb and lemon mixture left over in the bowl.
Lay over the bacon strips and scatter over the black olives – be sure to warn guests if your olives still have their pits. Bake the tian for 1 hour or until the vegetables are brown, the pumpkin is soft, and the bacon and olives are slightly crunchy.
Check the seasoning and serve either hot or room temperature, sprinkled with a little more parsley and some lemon juice if desired.