This recipe was inspired by Jamie Oliver's roast fennel and tomatoes--he adds a glug of wine to the roasting pan, which makes all the difference. I toss the mellow, caramelized fennel with hearty pearl barley--right in the pan to soak up every bit of juice and crusty flavor. Toasted fennel seeds and chopped fronds add a hint of sweetness and crunch. You might substitute brown rice, farro or other whole grains for the barley if you like. —Ann S
Cut fennel stalks off bulb. Remove feathery fronds, and finely chop, reserving 1/3 cup fronds. Cut stalks into 1/2 inch pieces and place on a large rimmed baking sheet or jelly roll pan. Cut bulb in half lengthwise, and remove the tough core at the base of the bulb. Cut halves into quarters and then into eighths, then cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Lay across the baking sheet in a single layer. Peel onion and cut into 1/2 inch cubes. Core pepper and cut into 1/2 cubes. Add pepper and onion to the pan. Coat the vegetables with olive oil then pour the wine into the pan. Sprinkle the vegetables with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Place vegetables in the oven and roast for 10 minutes.
Place barley in a saucepan and cover with 2 cups of water or broth. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover and cook for 30 to 40 minutes until the grains are tender and cooked through. Allow to cool slightly and fluff with a fork.
After vegetables have roasted for 10 minutes, remove from the oven and add the tomatoes, olives and garlic to the pan. Turn everything over once or twice with a spatula to mix the ingredients well. Roast for another 20 minutes then remove the pan from the oven again and turn the vegetables once more, this time pressing on the tomatoes with the spatula to squish them slightly and release some juice. Pop everything back into the oven again and roast for another 10 or 15 minutes. Repeat the process of pressing on the tomatoes once more. Continue roasting until the fennel and onion have taken on a nice golden hue with lots of caramelized bits, and everything is tender..
Place the fennel seeds in a small, dry skillet and warm over medium heat. Toast the seeds until they are fragrant and golden—this happens quickly so keep an eye on the pan. Cool slightly.
Place the cooked barley on the baking sheet with the vegetables. Using a large spatula fold all of the ingredients together making sure to scrape any caramelized bits and juice off the pan and into the grain mixture. Add the reserved fennel fronds, toasted seeds, lemon juice and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Mix everything together once more with the spatula. Taste and add more lemon juice, salt and pepper as needed. Place in a large bowl for serving.