Grilled Zucchini and Fennel with Saffron Crumbs

Grilled Zucchini and Fennel with Saffron Crumbs

Grilled vegetables are commonly used in our kitchen to make simple and quick salads. Veggies are sliced thinly or cut into chunks and then grilled, usually on the BBQ, or inside on a ridged grill pan. Simply dressed with olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt, they make a flavoursome salad or side dish.

So trust Ottolenghi to take grilled vegetables to the next level by adding “crumbs” or croutons that have been soaked in saffron water then fried with garlic. These are scattered over grilled vegetables for a salad that has visual impact and tastes delicious. The crumbs have many uses, so make them in bulk and use them often.

The vegetables that Ottolenghi uses in this dish are zucchini and fennel, but don’t restrict yourself to this combination. Also, try scattering the crumbs over roasted vegetables too. And onto soups in place of croutons. My goodness, they are good.

The fried saffron crumbs in this add colour and a luxurious crunch to an otherwise simple looking dish. Make more than you need, and omit the garlic – they’ll keep in an airtight jar for a week or so.

The recipe comes from Plenty More – we are cooking our way through this book. We feel free to substitute ingredients that are not readily available in our local area. In fact, it is Ottolenghi Cooking the Books Day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish the latest recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi’s books – those we have cooked directly and those we have been inspired by. Currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.

Similar dishes include Zucchini Carpaccio with ParmesanFennel with Almonds and Raisins, Beautiful Fennel Puree, Marinated Zucchini, Zucchini in Oil with Mint, Chilli and Garlic, and Grilled Fennel with Fresh Mozzarella.

Browse all of our Zucchini dishes and all of our Fennel recipes. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Early Winter recipes.

Grilled Zucchini and Fennel with Saffron Crumbs

Grilled Zucchini and Fennel with Saffron Crumbs

80ml boiling water
0.25 tspn saffron strands
60g ciabatta, crust removed, or Italian dried Friselle or Greek dried Dakos
Sunflower oil, for frying
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 medium zucchini, cut lengthways into 0.5cm slices
2 medium fennel bulbs, cut lengthways into 0.5cm slices
50ml olive oil
1.5 Tblspn lemon juice
2 Tblspn chopped dill
sea salt and black pepper

Heat the oven to 150C. Pour the boiling water over the saffron and leave to infuse for 10 minutes or more.

In the meantime, break the ciabatta or dried bread into small but not uniformly sized pieces up to 2cm long. Place these in a small bowl and slowly pour over the saffron water, stirring the bread with the other hand so the bread soaks up the liquid evenly. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, until the bread is completely dried out (use a shorter time for the dried breads).

Pour enough sunflower oil into a medium pan so it comes 1cm up the sides. Place on medium heat and, once the oil is hot, carefully drop in the saffron crumbs and the garlic. Fry for about 90 seconds, until the garlic is golden, then transfer with a slotted spoon on to a paper towel to remove excess oil, and sprinkle with salt.

Put a ridged griddle pan on high heat and leave for a few minutes. Mix the courgette slices with half a tablespoon of olive oil and some salt and char-grill lightly for up to a minute a side. Repeat with the fennel.

Put the cooked veg in a bowl, pour over the lemon juice and remaining oil, and mix gently. Leave to marinade for 15-20 minutes, then taste and season accordingly. Just before serving, arrange the vegetables on a platter and scatter over the dill, breadcrumbs and garlic.

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