Aug. 23 - Vicki's Vegetable Ventures
I had plenty of opportunities to make good use of last week’s distribution because we hit the trifecta of social activities this past weekend. On Friday it was my and Ray’s turn to host our monthly dinner group, the annual neighborhood block party was on Saturday, and the Chatfield CSA potluck dinner took place on Monday. Plus, my sister Annette arrived Friday from San Diego for an extended weekend, a visit which engendered four solid days of raucous laughter and fervent cooking.
But the first thing I did on Tuesday after picking up last week’s bounty was to prepare those scrumptious, healthy greens. Not sure how much longer they’ll last as we begin to receive more late-summer crops. Once again I just mixed them all together — beet greens, kale and spinach, braised with a tiny bit of drippings from some chorizo sausage. Also high on the "Eat This First" list (for the same reason) was the tender salad mix.
Normally our dinner group is an elaborate production, especially for the host, who is responsible for entrée and sides while the guests bring appetizers and dessert. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, of course, but it seems we always try to outdo each other. But this time I eased up considerably. Why go overboard when we have all these fresh vegetables? Just let them shine, I reasoned.
So early Friday morning I bought some fresh chicken, slathered it with a poultry rub and let it sit all day in the fridge. Just before the guests arrived I sliced the squash and eggplant vertically, drizzled them with olive oil and sprinkled kosher salt on top. Later they roasted in a very hot oven for about a half hour or so while Ray grilled the chicken. I also threw together a salad with our CSA tomatoes, cucumbers and basil. I added pieces of provolone cheese and some homemade croutons I had in the freezer, then splashed the ensemble with a little olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper.
Like magic, the whole dinner came together with easy preparation and just a few ingredients. In the words of Henry David Thoreau, "Simplify, simplify."
Normally my cooking routine entails dinners for just Ray and me with several items on the menu. But this week’s group activities required me to cook one dish for many people. This made it easier to use everything up. One strategy that helped was combining several vegetables together.
For example, at Saturday’s neighborhood party my gratin dish with gruyere made an encore appearance, this time with purple potatoes, turnips and yellow carrots. What a colorful array! And for Monday’s potluck I caramelized our CSA onions, and in another skillet I sautéed in olive oil ALL the peppers — green and red bell peppers, jalapeno, Anaheim, Hungarian … all of them. I mixed the onions and peppers together and served them on crusty bread for a tasty, simple appetizer.