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Fennel and Leeks Gratinée

I’m not sure why fennel and leeks aren’t as popular in the U.S. as they are in Italy and France, but I’m doing my part here. My husband hadn’t really eaten either of them until he met me, even though he also grew up in an Italian-American family. Broccoli, peas and carrots were more his standard. But fennel is a vegetable that was always on my family’s table when I was growing up. I can remember many holidays when a stainless steel tray, piled with raw fennel, olives, celery and radishes, was served before the main event. We never ate fennel cooked when I was a child, but I’ve made up for that as an adult. It’s one of my favorite vegetables and I’ve been eating it topped with gratinéed parmesan cheese ever since I first had it at a friend’s house decades ago. Leeks are a different story though, since they were never served in our house during my childhood. Even now, I usually buy them only when I want to make leek and potato soup. But they deserved a more starring role for a change, so I paired them with the fennel in this casserole, and the combination was perfect.

Start by cooking the fennel in a gently simmering pan of water. Then drain it, arrange it in a buttered baking dish, and sprinkle with seasoned salt and pepper.

Do the same with the leeks, then cover everything with shavings of fresh parmesan cheese.

Place it in the oven for a short time, then turn on the broiler for a few minutes to brown the cheese, and decorate with some fennel fronds. Try it and see if you can’t convince more of your friends to try cooked fennel and leeks. I think my husband might finally be onboard. He even took seconds last night. But the leftovers are all mine.

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Fennel and Leeks Gratinee
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • 2 large leeks
  • seasoned salt
  • black pepper
  • butter to smear on the casserole
  • water to cover
  • shaved parmesan cheese (about a half cup)
Instructions
  1. Trim the stalks off the fennel, and cut out most of the hard core.
  2. Slice the fennel into four or five thick slices (about ¼" thick).
  3. Place the fennel gently into a pan with boiling water, to cover.
  4. Cover the pan and let it bubble gently for ten minutes or until the fennel is fork tender.
  5. Remove the fennel and place in a buttered casserole.
  6. Trim the leeks, cutting off most of the top green part, leaving a portion of it on the stem.
  7. Cut in half lengthwise and place under running water to remove any dirt.
  8. Place the leeks in the boiling water cut side down and boil gently for five minutes, covered.
  9. Flip the leeks over gently and cook another five minutes in the water.
  10. Remove the leeks from the water and drain.
  11. Into a buttered casserole, arrange the fennel and leeks, then season with salt and pepper.
  12. Place thin slices of parmesan cheese on the top.
  13. Place in a 475 degree oven for ten minutes, then place under the broiler for a few minutes until lightly browned.
  14. Keep a careful watch on the dish because it can burn easily.
 

Stuffed Swiss Chard redux

Swiss chard is one of my favorite vegetables — and the “queen of greens” has been prolific in gardens this year. It’s easy to grow and easy to find in farmer’s markets and in supermarkets too. Over the years, I’ve posted many swiss chard recipes, including two other stuffed renditions — one stuffed with ground turkey (here) and one stuffed with brown rice and ground beef (here). This time, however, I wanted to use up some fregola (similar to Israeli couscous) in the pantry.
I mixed it with some ground beef, minced red pepper, onion, an egg, mozzarella cheese and seasonings.
In order to stuff the swiss chard, you need to remove the stalk (don’t throw them out, there’s another recipe coming at the end for those stalks).
Boil the leaves for a couple of minutes to soften them, then drain them on paper towels.
Place about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the filling over the leaves and roll up.
They’re easy to freeze at this point, or cook right away, covered with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese. If you really want to gild the lily, sprinkle with more mozzarella.
Wait a few minutes after they come out of the oven, since they’re piping hot.
OK, so now what to do with those swiss chard stalks? Well, I’ve given you a couple of different recipes in the past for fritters – here and here. But this time, it’s a swiss chard stalk gratin, and it’s simple to put together. First, chop the stalks into large pieces and boil for five minutes or until tender.
Then place in a casserole that’s been oiled, and top with parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs, a scattering of thyme and a pat of butter.
 Bake at high temperature for 20 minutes to 1/2 hour or until browned.
 It’s like having a whole new vegetable.

 

Stuffed Swiss Chard
1 cup fregola, cooked in water according to package, then cooled
1/4 cup onion, minced
4 T. olive oil
1/4 cup diced red pepper
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten with a fork
1 pound ground beef
minced parsley
salt, pepper to taste
tomato sauce
parmesan cheese
Sauté the onion and red pepper in 2 T. of the olive oil until softened. Remove and set aside in a bowl. With the remaining olive oil, cook the ground beef in a skillet. Drain off any fat. Place the meat in a bowl with the cooked onion and pepper. Add the parsley, salt and pepper, and egg. Mix together and place a little of the mixture on a leaf of the swiss chard. Roll up and place in a greased, ovenproof casserole. Cover with tomato sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes.
Swiss Chalk Stalk Gratin
swiss chalk stalks
parmesan cheese
bread crumbs
fresh thyme
salt, pepper to taste
Boil the swiss chard stalks for five minutes, or until softened. Drain and place in a greased, oven-proof casserole. Mix 2 parts parmesan cheese to one part bread crumbs. Season with fresh thyme, salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the swiss chard stalks and top with a pat of butter. Place in a 425 degree oven for about 20-30 minutes or until golden brown on top.