Creamy short grain brown rice with gruyere, mushrooms, onions and white beans make the base of this nourishing gratin. Topped with roasted fennel and lemony dijon parmesan breadcrumbs, Roasted Fennel, Mushroom and White Bean Brown Rice Gratin is a hearty vegetarian main. vegetarian + gluten free option.
The freezing temperatures have finally given way to milder, gray rainy days. These are the winter days I treasure most. Often, across the Salish Sea and beyond to the Olympic Mountains, the evening sky unfolds it’s drama in the form of spectacular sunsets of vibrant pink and orange with layering shades of gray clouds producing snow showers over shadowy peaks.
The cold air races across my ears while the waves lap the rocky shoreline. A Common Loon dives beneath the surf and a Harbor Seal pokes it’s head up to take a look around. I pull my hat further over my ears and gaze at this quiet, open space.
This is home.
I was reminded this week that we’re nearing CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) season. It’s hard to imagine the first sprouts of spring radishes arriving or that the ground is ready to start receiving seeds. But, it’s on my mind because I miss fresh produce straight from the farm.
Prairie Bottom Farm just opened again after their long winter break. I was thrilled to learn they have produce and eggs available at the farm stand now. Eggs (!!).
I was determined to be the first one there as they opened the gate. Their eggs are hot. Hot. HOT! When word gets out, you better run, not walk!
I snagged two dozen eggs (one for me and the other for my neighbor), a huge bag of carrots and three bundles of collards.
I’m thinking carrot soup.
When I talk with people about buying local food, sometimes they tell me they don’t know how to locate their nearest farm or farmers market. So after checking Local Harvest, they’re surprised to find a farm stand or farmers market closer than they anticipated.
Joining a CSA is easy too. Some CSA programs offer an early buy-in discount, so now’s the time to start looking! If needed, Local Harvest can guide you.
Fennel is one of the many vegetables I knew nothing about prior to joining a CSA program several years ago. My CSA share was the first to introduce it to me. At first, I mostly ate it raw in salads. Shaved thin, it adds crunch and a subtle anise-like flavor to salads. It especially pairs well with citrus.
Then, I started roasting it.
Like most vegetables, roasting transforms the flavors through the caramelization of sugars producing the most sublime sweet, earthy, nutty flavors.
Under high heat, fennel is transformed, becoming this tender yet meaty flavorful vegetable.
There are crispy edges too (!!).
This recipe comes in right at about an hour. While the rice is cooking and fennel is roasting, the mushrooms and onions are cooked, breadcrumbs mixed and cheese grated. Once assembled, bake for 20 minutes. I use this time to whip up a salad.
I love the leftovers.
Do you plan on joining a CSA this season? Have you checked Local Harvest for your nearest CSA?
Roasted Fennel, Mushroom and White Bean Brown Rice Gratin
Creamy short grain brown rice with gruyere, mushrooms, onions and white beans make the base of this nourishing gratin. Topped with roasted fennel and lemony dijon parmesan breadcrumbs, Roasted Fennel, Mushroom and White Bean Brown Rice Gratin is a hearty vegetarian main. vegetarian + gluten free option. **see notes on vegetarian parmesian
- 3 Tbs + 2 tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 Large Fennel Bulbs with Fronds
- 1 C (200g) Short Grain Brown Rice, 3 C Cooked
- 12 oz (344g) Crimini Mushrooms, stemms removed and sliced
- 1 C (120g) Yellow Onion, diced
- 15 Oz (425g) White Beans (Cannellini) drained and rinsed
- 1 1/2 C (130g) Gruyere, grated
- 2 Lemons one zested and juiced, the other for service
- 1/3 C (70g) Vegetable Broth* (see note)
- Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
- 1/3 C (4g) Breadcrumbs (Gluten Free if Needed)
- 1 Tbs Dijon Mustard
- 2 Tbs Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese** (see note)
Preheat oven to 425F (218C) and place oven rack in the center of the oven. Spray a 9 1/2" (24cm) gratin or casserole dish with cooking spray. Set aside. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Using your hands or a brush, spread one Tbs of olive oil all over the parchment paper. Set aside.
Cut the fennel fronds off the bulb and chop the herbaceous parts to yield about 1 Tbs. Set aside. Trim the top of the fennel and just a little off the base. You'll want to keep the fennel in tact at the base as much as possible so that the wedges won't fall apart. Cut fennel in half from top to bottom, then slice in 1/4" (25mm) wedges placing the wedges close together but not touching on the sheet pan. Brush tops, throughly with remaining olive oil (you may have some olive oil left over and this will vary depending on the size of the fennel). Roast in oven for 30 minutes, stopping to check on them at 25 minutes. They should caramelize (turn a dark color but not burn). Some will caramelize more so than others. This is okay.
While the fennel is roasting, cook the brown rice according to package directions. Add the cooked brown rice to a medium mixing bowl (it's okay if it cools off).
In a large sauté pan add 2 tsp of olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the mushrooms, spreading them out in a single layer as best you can and stir only occassionally, about every two minutes for 9-10 minutes. We want them to sear. Add the onion in with the mushrooms and sauté for about 3 minutes or until the onions are just soft. Add the mushroom/onion mixture to the mixing bowl. Mix in the beans, Gruyere, zest of 1/2 a lemon, 2 tsp of the minced fennel fronds, juice of one lemon, broth, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp ground pepper. Taste to adjust seasoning as needed. Spoon into prepared gratin or casserole dish.
To make the crust, in a small bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, dijon, parmesan, pinch of salt and zest of 1/2 a lemon. Set aside.
Reduce oven temperature to 400F (204C). Arrange fennel wedges over the top of the rice mixture, flipping each wedge over so that the darkest caramelized side is up, shingling if needed to fit all the fennel on top. Spread the bread crumbs evenly over the gratin. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
Sprinkle remaining cut fennel fronds over the top. Serve with lemon wedges. Store in covered container for up to three days. When reheating, add a few tsp of water and cover. Reheat at 350F (180F) for about 20 minutes.
*While I've not tried it, I had an epiphany after making this recipe numerous times. Instead of vegetable broth, why not try white wine? If you try it, I'd love to hear how it turns out!
**Parmesan Cheese: Look for vegetarian friendly Parmesan cheese (one that does not use rennet in production). BelGioioso vegetarian Parm can be hard to find, but Organic Valley is more widely available. I found this comprehensive list that shows brands who produce vegetarian friendly parmesan cheese. For more information, check directly with your preferred cheese maker.
DIY fresh grated parmesan, cut a wedge into small chunks and process in a food processor until finely grated.