Monday, June 15

Fennel, Tomato & Sausage Bake

I owe my thanks for this recipe to some delightful guests of ours who sent us a wonderful cookbook, Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home - Cook Your Way to the Good Life. It's full of gorgeous photos, chatty notes, and the type of food-forward recipes that Jamie Oliver is famous for. It's the way I love to cook, with lots of fresh produce, quality ingredients, and simple methods that let the flavour of the food shine.
I've been making a variation of Jamie's Sweet Cherry Tomato and Sausage Bake frequently this spring. The multitude of colourful vegetables act as a preview of the summer produce bounty just around the corner. But since we're just at the start of the growing season, the slow, deep baking method used here really brings out the best flavour of the veggies.

The dish is perfect for casual entertaining since it can be assembled ahead of time. When it's time to cook, it's mostly untended in the oven, leaving you free to visit with your guests or finish preparing the rest of the meal. The evenings here are still plenty cool enough that it's nice for me to hav
e the oven on, but I suspect that the dish will also work well on the barbeque. Just use an aluminum pan lined with parchment paper for the veggies, and cook the sausages directly on the grill.

So a big shout out and 'Thank You' to Hartley (a very handsome labradoodle) and his people Stella and Dave!

Fennel, Tomato & Sausage Bake
adapted from Jamie Oliver's Jamie at Home - Cook Your Way to the Good Life
serves 4-6, or 2 with leftovers

2 onions
2 fennel bulbs
2 yellow or orange sweet peppers
2 pints grape tomatoes, rinsed and drained
4 cloves garlic
4 sprigs fresh thyme
handful chopped fresh parsley
generous pinch dried oregano
10 mild or hot Italian sausages
extra virgin olive oil
balsamic vinegar
coarse kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil a 9"x13" or two 7"x11" ceramic baking dish (I use my lasagna pan).

Peel and trim the onions; cut lengthwise into 3/4" wedges. Trim the fennel bulbs and remove the tough outer layers; cut lengthwise into 3/4" wedges. Rinse, core and seed the sweet peppers; cut lengthwise into 3/4" slices. Peel the garlic and cut lengthwise in half.

Put the vegetables, herbs and sausages in the baking dish. (Don't prick the sausages—you want to keep the juices inside!) Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with salt & pepper. Toss it all together to coat evenly. Pick out the sausages and line them up on top of the veggies.

Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Stir up the veggies and turn the sausages over. Continue baking for another 25-35 minutes until the sausages are nicely browned and cooked through. If your veggies need a little more time, return them to the oven (remove the sausages first and keep them warm in a covered dish) until done to your liking. I like them a little soft and caramelized, usually another 15 minutes or so.

Serve over steamed rice, a simple risotto, or mashed potatoes. I always make enough for leftovers because this is AMAZING the next day, chopped coarsely and tossed with a sturdy pasta (like bocconcini) and grated parmesan.

This is also great as a vegetarian dish. Just omit the sauages. Another great variation is to toss in raw, peeled, deveined shrimp for the last 10 minutes or so of cooking. The shrimp is done when it's pink and opaque.

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