Roast Tomatoes, Fennel & Chickpeas

My friend loaned me the new cookbook by Diana Henry, “How to Eat a Peach.” It’s a gorgeous book; I’m going to buy it this week. I’ve dogeared so many great recipes in it. And, this roast tomatoes and fennel with chickpeas infused with flavor from preserved lemon and harissa paste is a stunner. You can buy or make your own preserved lemons. They’re available online or likely at stores near you. And, if you like the taste of harissa, I recommend you try New York Shuk’s. It’s the best.

Roast Fennel & Tomatoes with Chickpeas

Keyword fennel, harissa paste, preserved lemon, roast, tomatoes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 6

Ingredients

FOR THE TOMATOES

  • 10 large plum tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • tablespoons harissa paste
  • Sea salt flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper

FOR THE FENNEL

  • 2 large fennel bulbs
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 1 generous pinch of red pepper chile flakes
  • tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 15 oz can of chickpeas drained and rinsed

FOR THE DRESSING

  • 2 small preserved lemons plus 2 teaspoons juice from the jar
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • ½ tablespoon warmed honey
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

    Halve the tomatoes lengthways and lay in a single layer in a roasting tin or ovenproof dish. Mix the regular olive oil, balsamic vinegar and harissa and pour this over the tomatoes, tossing to coat well, then turn the tomatoes cut sides up. Season with salt and pepper. Quarter the fennel bulbs, cut off the stalks and remove any coarse outer leaves. Pull off any tender fronds (reserve these) and cut each piece of fennel into 2.5cm- (1in-) thick wedges, keeping them intact at the base. Toss in a bowl with the lemon juice. Add the garlic, fennel seeds, red pepper flakes and extra virgin olive oil, then season and turn everything over with your hands. Spread out the fennel in a second roasting tin and cover tightly with foil.

    Put both trays in the oven. Roast the fennel for 35-45 minutes, until tender, slightly golden, then remove the foil and roast for another 5–10 minutes, or until soft, golden, and charred around the edges. Roast the tomatoes for 35–45 minutes, or until caramelized in patches and slightly shrunken. Stir the chickpeas into the fennel and taste for seasoning. Leave both to cool to room temperature.

    Now make the dressing. Discard the flesh from the preserved lemons and cut the rind into dice. Whisk the wine vinegar with the preserved lemon juice, honey and extra virgin olive oil, season and add the lemon rind and coriander. Taste for seasoning and sweet-sour balance.

    Arrange the fennel, chickpeas and tomatoes on a platter, adding all the juices from the roasting tins; there might be quite a bit from the tomatoes. Scatter any fennel fronds saved. Spoon on the dressing.

Recipe Notes

I like to cook the fennel significantly longer than the original recipe calls for because I like a really charred, roasted root vegetable. I also either use only a half tablespoon of honey or skip it, because the over-roasted tomatoes and fennel are sweet and very tender.