Briami me Maratho

Baked Mixed Vegetables with Fennel

AS IN MOST of the Cyclades, wild fennel grows all over the island of Kea. Unless you grow herbs in your garden, it is the only local herb there is; parsley, dill and other herbs are brought from Athens. Sweet, fragrant wild fennel is exquisite, so I try to use it as much as I can. Living on Kea, I came up with this recipe for baked mixed vegetables that I think is better than the version with parsley.

Baked vegetables are a classic summer dish, eaten warm or at room temperature, ideal for picnics and summer buffets. In the United States, where wild fennel is not readily available, you can get almost the same taste by using a combination of fennel bulb and seeds. The vegetables need plenty of olive oil, but most of it is left at the bottom of the pan, although it is delicious with fresh crusty bread.

Serve these vegetables on their own, with bread and feta cheese, or as a side dish with grilled meat or poultry.

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Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants, cut into 1½-inch chunks
  • Salt
  • 6 zucchini, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 green bell peppers, cored, quartered, seeded and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 3 large tomatoes, cored and coarsely diced
  • 2 large onions, coarsely diced
  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed (fronds and tender stalks reserved) and coarsely chopped, or cups chopped wild fennel
  • 5 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, preferably freshly ground or crushed in a mortar
  • 1–2 teaspoons Aleppo pepper or ½–1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fennel fronds plus tender stalks, or fresh dill

Method

Place the eggplant in a colander and sprinkle generously with salt. Let stand for 30 minutes. Rinse and pat dry with paper towels.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400°F.

In a large baking dish, combine the eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, tomatoes, onions, fennel bulb or wild fennel, garlic, oil, fennel seeds, Aleppo pepper or pepper flakes, oregano and salt and black pepper to taste. Toss well.

Bake for 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, tossing once after 20 minutes. The tops will probably char a little, but this caramelizes the vegetables and makes them sweeter.

Sprinkle with the fennel fronds or dill and serve warm or at room temperature.

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