Tag Archives: grilled veg

A Platter of Veg

25 Sep

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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!”

“Ok, then.”

“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 – “

“Ooooooo tangeloes!!!”

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.  

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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. 

Enjoy! 

Comfort Food and 9/11

11 Sep

I think, in every generation, there is a time or event that makes others in the same and future generations say, “Where were you when…?”  Today is the 10th anniversary of that event.  I was on duty as an RA in my dorm at Arizona State University, in charge of 60 frantic freshmen, one of which had a sister on Flight 93.  All day, I’ve been on and off the phone with my mom – a New York native – recounting the events, what we did and said, and gave verbal thanks that our family members and friends who were in the towers were able to safely escape.  I know others’ families weren’t as lucky.

The summer sun never came out today on the Oregon Coast, but that’s ok because it gave a great damp chill indicative only of the fall months to come.  Combined with football and munchies leftover from yesterday’s annual Cranberry Festival, it felt like a day to relax, stay home, and be thankful.

I’m sitting here in front of a blank computer page, trying to figure out exactly how to explain this.  Having already typed and then erased quite a few sentences, I’ll give it another go.

WE HAVE VEGETABLES COMING OUT OF OUR EARS.

So with the familiar and fresh fall feeling outside, combined with the feeling of wanting that also familiar warm home comfort, I called my mom, again, this time asking what she would make for dinner on a Sunday night like tonight.  Without me explaining my feeling/craving for comfort food, she immediately unknowingly shared the sentiment and started to list off some of her yummiest comforting dishes.  Beef Stroganoff, Tuna Noodle Casserole, and Campfire Stew were some of the top contenders.  While they all sounded amazing, I had to speak up and tell her about our abundance of veggies.

Our Wintergreen Farms basket has been plentiful the last few weeks, with deliveries of corn, zucchini, summer squash, cauliflower, eggplant, and beautiful tomatoes.  So Rob and I have been swimming in fresh veg.  It is wonderful – don’t get me wrong – but there came a point where we had to figure out how to use it all!

With Notre Dame on the TV last night, we grilled up the veg.  Combined with the choices of a lemon vinaigrette, honey mustard dressing, or cinnamon and garlic aioli, our veggie football night was awesome.  But then, we still had leftovers.

Longer story shorter, and back to the phone call, my mom and I practically came up with the idea for tonight’s 9/11 comfort dinner at the same time: Grilled Vegetarian Chili.  Half leftover grilled veg, half pantry staples, a few hours in the Dutch oven, and another comfort food was born.  The smokiness from grilling the veg really added a lot to the chili, like the familiar taste of meat.  And this dinner was even suitable for Sunday night football.

Rob is on duty, so it’s a girl’s night tonight – my comforting Vegetarian Chili, a roaring fire heating up the house, the “Home Sweet Home” Yankee candle is already burning, probably another phone call to my mom, and most likely a Bravo Housewives marathon.  Not exactly what I was doing 10 years ago today, but a good way to remember.

To all my New York and New Jersey relatives – I love you and miss you and I’m sending you hugs and kisses!

Grilled Vegetarian Chili (makes about 5 quarts)

  • About 6 cups diced, grilled vegetables – I used corn, eggplant, zucchini, cauliflower, and potatoes
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 15 oz. kidney beans, rinsed
  • 1 15 oz. black beans, rinsed
  • 2 large tbsp canned green chilis
  • 1 28 oz. can whole tomatoes (crush them with your hand so less surface area of the tomatoes touch the metal can)
  • 1 qt vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • pinch cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground thyme
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes (or less if you don’t like spicy)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • s&p
  • Your favorite cheese, optional (for topping the chili)

Saute the onions in the butter over med-high heat, and season with a bit of salt.  Once the onions are translucent, add the chopped grilled vegetables, beans, and tomatoes.  Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring often.  Add the spices, vegetable broth, and season with salt and pepper.  Note: you will probably notice after cooking for a while that you’ll need to adjust seasoning – it gives you a great excuse to meander into the kitchen and take lots of tastes. 

Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about an hour.  Stir occasionally.  If you like a thicker chili, leave the pot uncovered for the last 15 minutes of cooking time. 

Top with cheese, if you would like.  It’s thick, rich, and smoky – just don’t burn the roof of your mouth diving in!  

Enjoy!  

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