I have to say, I am really missing our Wintergreen Farms CSA basket from Oregon. The beautiful greens of the Oregon summer and fall are nowhere to be seen at this point in the Florida growing season, and the heat is still as persistent as ever. However, that being said, a few weeks ago, a small local market opened up in our housing community that has filled up our crisper with almost as many goodies as our Oregon CSA baskets did. For $20, we can get 9 baskets of fruits or veggies, each about the size of holding 3 beefsteak tomatoes. Good deal? I think so.
We made a point to go to the little market last Saturday, as friends were coming into town to stay the night. All week I had been flipping through my recipes, trying to get inspiration from many a cookbook, all with no avail leaving an empty, white plate sans what to cook for dinner. I hate that feeling.
Back when I lived in Irvine, CA, the UCI Farmers Market was a Saturday must. Every week, I’d stock up on the season’s freshest, and would jump into my car with loads of cooking ideas – some of which I had to write down before even driving away. I would come home to my little 710 square foot apartment (a fourth of which was the perfectly one-person-proportioned U-shaped kitchen) that overlooked the Portola Foothills, and cook the Saturday away. Most dishes were vegetarian, most were written down, and if I deemed the dish good enough, I’d bring it to my parents’ house to share. I learned how to cook this way, and found it invigorating. Thinking about it, even now, I get that same comfortable excitement, motivation, and inspiration.
Rob called it my “Saturday Routine.” He knew not to mess with it. When we moved to Oregon, we created our own Saturday Routine together by visiting markets up and down the Coast, stopping at a fabulous winery for a glass of Pinot, and cooking our bountiful veg from our weekly basket. Occasionally we’d have friends over for a low-key night, or hold down a local dive watching Oregon play that week’s losing team. While it was never officially mentioned, I could totally see Rob saying, “Oregon’s Saturday Routine totally kicks California’s Saturday Routine’s BUTT!”
So this past Saturday, filled with the overflowing emptiness and panic ensuing from what to make my guests for dinner, we went to the little market in our neighborhood. I got excited. So much so, that I started talking in circles about ideas and recipes; Rob knows from experience when this happens, to just let me have at it.
“Rob, what do you think if I grill some eggplant – should we do eggplant, or would zucchini be better?”
“Babe, I thin-“
“Wait, why don’t I do both!”
“Look! The Honey Crisp apples are out!”
“Aren’t those the ones that – “
“I LOVE THOSE! Remember how they were all over the Pacific Northwest?”
“Yeah, I – “
The poor lady helping us out had the patience of a Saint, and I’m sure she was happy to see us go – mostly for the reason that she wouldn’t have to hear my voice anymore, but also that I walked away with 3 baby eggplant, 4 zucchini, 3 apples, a basket of pluots, a basket of tangelos, 2 bunches of green onions, 4 heirloom peppers, 3 beefsteak tomatoes, and a basket of cherry tomatoes. YUM.
So dinner with our friends consisted of a rustic, marinated, grilled vegetable platter. With the zucchini, baby eggplant, carrots, green onions, apples, mushrooms, and heirloom peppers, we mixed in some turkey sausage for the omnivores, and paired it with a lovely kale and dill pesto. Really, it was the marinade that made this dish amazing – it is tangy, sweet, and perfectly complimentary to the smoke of the grill, leaving the veg addictive. The leftovers were amazing, too. I simply heated up the veg with some feta cheese, but I can completely imagine the second round as a lovely grilled vegetable soup, or a fantastic Panini. Yum again.
The night, and the dinner, was a hit, and it felt so good to be inspired again. Feel free to use any vegetable you would like in this dish – really anything that can hold its integrity on a hot grill will work fine. Fruit works, too, and please enjoy with good company. Hopefully a giant platter of veg will inspire you as much as it did for me.
Grilled Veg Marinade
(makes just over a pint)
- ¼ c olive oil
- ¼ c apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp honey
- zest and juice of 1 lemon
- juice of one tangelo (or an orange)
- 3 whole sprigs of thyme
- 1 large garlic clove, slightly smashed
- about 10 peppercorns
- a 4-fingered pinch of kosher salt
Pour all ingredients in a quart-sized mason jar. Seal tightly, and shake well to mix. Put in the fridge for a few hours to marry the flavors.
About 30 minutes before grilling the veg, pour over the marinade, and mix well so all the juices sink in and impart the flavor.
NOTE: cut your veg into pretty thick pieces, and large enough that they won’t fall through the grill grate. Go straight from the marinade to the grill, medium heat, and grill each side. Mix with, or without a protein of your choice, and serve on a big platter. And extra sprinkling of fresh basil on top adds a nice touch.