In large saucepan over moderately high heat, bring 2 quarts salted water to boil. Add fennel and boil until tender, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, rub red and yellow peppers, zucchini, and eggplant with olive oil and transfer to large baking sheet. Cut off top 1/2 inch from garlic head. Wrap in foil and transfer to baking sheet alongside vegetables.
When fennel is tender, use tongs to transfer to sheet and rub with oil. Roast vegetables, turning occasionally, until tender and slightly browned, 30 to 40 minutes.
Transfer roasted peppers to large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let all vegetables stand until cooled slightly, about 10 minutes. Peel and deseed peppers, then finely dice. Remove seeds from zucchini and finely dice. Finely dice eggplant. Core fennel and finely dice.
In large saucepan over moderately high heat, combine diced roasted vegetables and tomato sauce. Squeeze garlic from skins into pan. Simmer mixture, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened with very little liquid remaining, about 10 minutes.
Stir in basil, thyme, marjoram, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and remaining 1/4 cup olive oil. Serve immediately.
Provencal Vegetable Soup
1 large leek (white and pale green parts only), washed and thinly sliced (2 cups)
1 celery rib, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large carrot, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 large thyme sprig
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound Swiss chard, stems cut into 1/2-inch pieces and leaves coarsely chopped
8 cups water
2 cups thawed frozen edamame (fresh soybeans)
1/2 pound zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup medium pasta shells
1 small tomato
1 cup packed basil leaves
1/2 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyère (3 ounces)
Make soup: Cook leek, celery, carrot, garlic, and thyme sprig in oil with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a 5-to 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables brown and stick to bottom of pot, 10 to 15 minutes.
Add potatoes and chard stems with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up brown bits.
Stir in edamame, zucchini, green beans, pasta, chard leaves, and 1/4 tsp salt and simmer, uncovered, until pasta is al dente and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Discard thyme sprig.
Meanwhile make pistou: Heat a dry small skillet (not nonstick) over medium heat until hot, then char tomato on all sides. Core tomato, then purée with basil, parsley, and garlic in a food processor. Add oil and cheese and blend well.
Remove soup from heat and stir in half of pistou and salt and pepper to taste. Serve soup with remaining pistou.
Cooks' note:Soup, without pistou, can be made 1 day ahead and chilled. Reheat before serving
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (a 1/4-ounce package)
1/2 cup warm water (105-115°F)
1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
3 pound yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Stir together yeast and warm water in a small bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn't foam, start over with new yeast.)
Put 1 1/2 cups flour in a medium bowl, then make a well in center of flour and add yeast mixture to well. Stir together egg, 1 tablespoon oil, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt with a fork. Add egg mixture to yeast mixture and mix with a wooden spoon or your fingertips, gradually incorporating flour, until a soft dough forms. Transfer dough to a floured surface and knead, working in additional flour (up to 1/4 cup) as necessary, until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
While dough rises, heat remaining 1/3 cup oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then sauté fennel seeds until a shade darker, about 30 seconds. Stir in onions, remaining teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then reduce heat to medium-low and cover onions directly with a round of parchment paper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are very tender and golden brown, 1 to 1 1/4 hours.
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle.
Knead dough gently on a floured surface with floured hands to deflate. Pat out dough on a large heavy baking sheet (preferably blue steel) into a 15- by 12-inch rectangle, turning up or crimping edge, then brush mustard evenly over dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border around edge. Spread onions evenly over mustard, then sprinkle evenly with cheese.
Bake tart until crust is golden brown, 30 to 35 minutes. Cut into 2-inch squares or diamonds and serve warm or at room temperature.
Avocado and Romaine Salad
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon fresh chives, chopped
1 1/3 cup avocado, chopped
3 cups chopped romaine hearts
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh dill weed, chopped
best quality Balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Toss together all ingredients and drizzle with desired amount of balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
Makes 4 servings.
Winemaker's Grape Cake
Come September, I prepare this cake often, taking advantage of whatever clusters of grapes I can find on our vines after harvesting. At Chanteduc, we grow a mixture of Grenache, Syrah, and Morvèdre grapes, each of which contributes its own personality to the wine and to this cake. I love the rustic crunch that seeded grapes impart, and so I also recommend trying Zinfandel, Cornith, and Cabenet grapes. For seedless grapes, try Red Flame. The original recipe was given to me by Rolando Beramendi at Italy's fine Tuscan estate Capezzna, where this intriguing not-too-sweet cake appears frequently at the table during the fall harvest. Note that the cake is prepared with half butter and half olive oil, producing an unusually light and moist cake. hide ›
10 ounces (300 g) small, fresh purple grapes (see above for varieties)
Confectioners’ sugar, for garnish
1. Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C; gas mark 4/5).
2. Generously butter and flour the springform pan, tapping out any excess flour. Set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk, beat the eggs and sugar until thick and lemon-colored, about 3 minutes. Add the butter, oil, milk, and vanilla extract, and mix until blended.
4. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Add the lemon zest and orange zest, and toss to coat the zest with flour. Spoon the mixture into the bowl of batter and stir with a wooden spoon until thoroughly blended. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix once more. Set aside for 10 minutes to allow the flour to absorb the liquids.
5. Stir about 3/4 of the grapes into the batter. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan and smooth out the top with a spatula.
6. Place the pan in the center of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then sprinkle the top of the cake with remaining grapes. Bake until the top is a deep golden brown and the cake feels quite firm when pressed with a fingertip, about 40 minutes more, for a total baking time of 55 minutes. Remove to rack to cool. After 10 minutes, run a knife along the sides of the pan. Release and remove the side of the springform pan, leaving the cake on the pan base. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar just before serving. Serve at room temperature, cut into thin wedges.
Grape cake is an ideal match for vin santo,the rich, smooth, aromatic sweet wine prepared in small quantities on many Italian estates.
In a purple haze
Over time, I have identified the mystery that discourages many shoppers from buying grapes: the inevitable hazy white film. Though one might understandably assume it’s due to a spray of pesticide, the film is in fact a natural substance produced by the grape. It acts as a protective covering to prevent moisture from penetrating the fruit. It also keeps the skin from cracking when the grape loses moisture. Even better, the film contains nothing toxic! You will find the same harmless film on plums.