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.

Serves 4

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
kosher salt
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.


marisa said...

The contrast between this and your summer tian is just beautiful!

Alanna said...

No doubt Freddie will love this, he's a bacon fiend!

Joanna said...

MMMmmm this is lovely ... good earthy flavours for autumn, and, as you say, you can use anything you've got to hand. Is that an earthenware tian you're using? Or an iron skillet?


Figs Olives Wine said...

Marisa, thank you so much! It's interesting to see the difference, isn't it? They're certainly a great way to highlight the strengths of the season whatever they may be!

Alanna, that makes 2 of us! He's a good man and a brave eater!

Joanna, thanks so much! I use a cast iron pan I've got, but that's just for lack of a proper tian. Plus I like the way the colors of the veg look against the black!

Great Big Veg Challenge said...

This looks beautiful and you are right alanna the bacon is a BIG hit in our house. And why not...
Can i ask - is a Tian a specific shape? What could I use if I dont have one....
And Thank You for joining in - its always such fun to find out what everyone else has made. Brilliant.

Patricia Scarpin said...

You had me at "bacon", Amanda. :)

Figs Olives Wine said...

Charlotte, thank you! I'm really so pleased you like the tian, and I hope Freddie will too. Tians can be any shape, but they're usually oval or rectangular, and any baking dish will do. I've used a round cast iron pan here. Thanks so much for the invitation again. I love doing these with you!

Patricia, heehee! I love it, and I'm exactly the same way.

Lucy said...

Amanda, you are one of the best recipe writers blogging today. Your prep instructions for the vegetables are clear and precise; and as always your taste is impeccable!

Freddie's got a whole lotta pumpkin recipes to love (lucky boy)!

Mercedes said...

Oh yes, tians are so beautiful, aren't they? Squash and fennel are such a wonderful combination, and I love that the olives bake so that they're slightly crispy. Great recipe!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Oh yeah! That looks haevenly Amanda! I know Freddie will chow this down! Go Freddie! And great job to you Amanda for being so supportive!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Lucy! That's incredibly kind of you! I can't tell you how much I appreciate the vote of confidence - especially from someone whose work I respect so much. Thank you, Lucy.

Mercedes, thank you! I love the crispy olives too - it's a little unexpected, you know? Glad you like!

Jenn, thank you! I'm so pleased you like the tian - he's such a good eater, isn't he?!

Gloria said...

So nice recipe Amanda, I like how you mix the veggies and are so wonderful to taste. xxxGloria

sognatrice said...

Mmmm...here we call a terracotta baking dish (which the older generation still uses stovetop for the best sauce) a "tiana" :)

winedeb said...

Now that fall is upon us, weather wise I guess I should say almost, it is time to drag out the black iron skillet. Not sure why I associate it with fall and winter, as it can be used year round, but it is a pan I save for savory dishes. Your tian sounds and looks marvelous and I have been "into" my French cookbooks the past week. So...here we go!

Figs Olives Wine said...

Gloria, thank you! I'm so pleased you like the flavors! It's a combination I enjoy too.

Sognatrice, I didn't know that, and I'm so happy I do now! I wonder if that's a southern Italian term or one that's used all over? Any idea? I'll have to do some research - thank you so much!

Winedeb, I know just what you mean - it's a pan I use almost exclusively for roasting and braising. And of course, those are things we do so much more often in the cool weather! I hope you enjoy the tian - do let me know how it goes if you try it!

David Hall said...

I see you like to marry pumpkin with bacon too, what a match they are! Lovely recipe.


Anonymous said...

Lovely colors!

Garrett said...

Everything in the title of this pieces sounds like heaven to me!

Wendy said...

I made tian recently and it was absolutely awful! Didn't expect to be tempted to make another so soon. The flavours sound wonderful.

The Passionate Palate said...

Either we would make fantastic roommates or you would make the perfect personal chef for me! :-)What I mean is that every recipe you write has my name written all over it; our palates like the same combinations of flavors.

This is inventive and combines the best of fall flavors.

Cynthia said...

So many exciting flavours and textures here.

Ilva said...

This is a great recipe and I love the simplicity of it! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

what a beautiful dish. yum!

Joanne Rendell said...

what an amazing combination, amanda. I want some now!

Figs Olives Wine said...

David, I love that we all went there! Great minds think alike - so glad you like the tian.

Anonymous, thank you!

Garrett, thanks! Now that I look at it, I like all those things a lot too! So pleased you like.

Wendy, what a drag! What was the problem? This one's very simple - no cooking liquid etc - so hopefully it's fairly reliable. Let me know.

Passionate Palate, I love the roomie idea, and I love your palate too!!! We'd have to take turns cooking, b/c I want your food too! And in our spare time we could plan trips to Piedmont!!

Cynthia, thank you! I'm so pleased you like the tian!

Ilva, thanks so much. It is certainly simple, and I'm really pleased you like it! Hope you enjoy.

Anonymous, thank you! I like the colors!

Jo, coming right up! I just put one in a cab and it's enroute.

Wendy said...

It just didn't taste nice. It was made with lots of freshly grilled Mediterranean vegetables and, though it looked stunning, it took on that odd bitter taste that I hate so much in store-bought roasted peppers.

Maryam in Marrakesh said...

This looks gorgeous. What do youthink I can replace the bacon with?

Figs Olives Wine said...

Wendy, ugh! I loathe that bitter flavor. What a drag that happened after so much prep work!

Maryam, CHEESE! I think crumble over a goat's cheese, but anything could work. Maybe finish it with 5 minutes under the broiler to get the cheese extra golden? Let me know what you decide - I want to try this version now too! So pleased you like.

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