Aug. 15 - Vicki's Vegetable Ventures
The art of waiting till the last minute
On Saturday our friends Fred & Barb hosted a potluck BBQ. I’d been conceptualizing my dish for days. My vague notion of a potato-turnip concoction eventually took shape as a gratin. I printed many recipes I found online. But all day Saturday I simply could not motivate myself to cook. I devised all kinds of schemes to delay the project, including searching for B&Bs for an overseas trip we’re not taking till next spring. Finally, with about an hour to go, I flew into action, enlisting hubby Ray’s help as my sous chef.
The art of throwing everything in
I decided to ditch all those recipes I found online and instead stick with Ina Garten’s tried-and-true recipe for cauliflower gratin. I made the cheese béchamel and began assembling the gratin. In went the parboiled potatoes and turnips. Then I threw in the radishes, also parboiled. And I had a little cauliflower left over from last week’s distribution, so I threw that in. A bit of parsley — it got thrown in, too. The result was a wildly popular gratin that everyone raved about. Afraid no one would like it because of the turnips, I found instead that every square inch of it got eaten and everyone wanted the recipe.
The art of plain preparation
On Friday we ate at one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants and had a divine appetizer consisting of eggplant, tomatoes and onions. It had a kick to it, probably red pepper flakes, and a very bright, fresh finish. In attempting to recreate this dish, I first roasted the eggplant, mixed it with tomatoes, onions, Thai basil and red pepper. I added olive oil, salt and pepper and — striving for that bright taste — finished it off with lime juice. It was quite good but not exactly like what we had. To be honest, I kept nibbling on the roasted eggplant while cutting everything else up … and I think I enjoyed the plain roasted eggplant more than the fancy appetizer.
Come to think of it, several of our vegetables have ended up being prepared very plainly and were exquisite, no doubt because they’re so fresh. When cooking the green beans, for example, I nearly went apoplectic when I realized I had no bacon grease to season the beans with. (I’m from the South; that’s my excuse.) But they were superb without the grease! And of course every week I’ve been cooking the beets very plainly, as well as the spinach, and enjoying every bite.
But on Sunday night I always do something more elaborate. This week, I used our bell peppers to make Rachael Ray’s lamb-stuffed peppers. For this dish I also made use of some of our other peppers and some of our herbs. It turned out fabulous. Dessert was white melon and berries, macerated in triple sec, sprinkled with orange zest and topped with cream. That melon is like ambrosia. It could’ve ripened a couple more days before I cut it, but still it was extremely sweet with almost a floral character. I’m looking forward to the watermelon, which should be good and ripe by now.