Our friends at Gill Farms in Hurley, New York keep surprising us with beautiful, tasty, healthy vegetables. Life is too short to only eat broccoli! So come on in and try some of the wonderful vegetables we have been preparing. Expand your mind and your palate!
Today’s delivery included multicolored mini-eggplants and gorgeous okra. There is definitely much more to do with okra than making gumbo, (which we love) so to highlight these fascinating vegetables I made an Indian inspired dish, called a “bhadji”, delicately seasoned with ginger, tamarind and chili for today’s plat du jour.
The fresh cranberry beans we cooked yesterday are another late summer treat, truly amazing! I folded these into a clove, cardamon scented rice, sort of like an Indian version of the Cajan “dirty rice”.
To finish the dish we’ve paired a nice cool cucumber yogurt raita, with cucumbers from Gill Farms, of course, and some fresh herbs from our garden out back. We’re loving the bounty of the harvest in August, come share it with us!
We’re not sure when grilled vegetables first came into fashion as a summer delight, but they sure are popular now. Richard and I were chatting about this and don’t remember ever having eaten them when we were kids. It must have dovetailed with the dawning of the barbeque culture, where everyone had their own backyard grill and outdoor entertaining became “a must”! After all, what could be more enticing than taking some of your favorite veggies and grilling them?
Well…it’s funny because when I asked Richard about grilled vegetables the first thing he said was that Julia Child hated them! Hard to imagine why, but evidently it’s not a vegetable preparation that’s embraced in French cooking!
Now that the warmer weather is upon us, we’ve moved from doing roasted vegetables to grilled vegetables in our store. So what fun it was to watch as Alex cut and prepared all the vegetables for grilling – again a visual extravaganza. After washing all the vegetables, they’re cut into 1/4-1/2″ pieces for grilling. Cut them crosswise, lengthwise or on the bias depending on the look you’re going for. Certain vegetables like eggplant and zucchini are more dramatic when they’re cut lengthwise, which also shows off their distinctive shapes. (Richard recommends lightly salting these on both sides and letting them stand for 15 minutes to help some of the water drain out before grilling.)
We then place the sliced, salted vegetables on a sheet pan, and brush with olive oil that’s been infused with garlic, thyme, rosemary, and oregano. Next, turn them over and brush the other side. If you have a grill on your indoor range, it will work great for grilling, as you don’t have to worry about the pieces falling through. Many stores sell mesh baskets that can be used for grilling vegetables and fish on outdoor grills.
Each vegetable has it’s own perfect cooking time, so you’ll have to keep an eye on them and test for “done-ness”. Drizzling the finished platter with balsamic vinegar and a shower of freshly chopped basil gives everything a dramatic finish!
One of the coolest things about being married to a chef and owning a food business is there’s always something amazing going on in the kitchen. The other day as I strolled through, our awesome chef Alex was preparing this fabulous eggplant dish – it was something entirely new to me and the visual was stunning! I immediately told her to stop and let me grab my camera to snap some pics. I decided to take pictures at each stage of the dish’s evolution, to share with you.
How fun today when one of our customers (the extremely lovely librarian Kara) ordered it exactly the way Alex said it should be served: with some sliced mozzarella and a side starch (here our whole grain pilaf, but it would also be great with pasta.)
Making the fans is extremely easy. Choose a medium to large eggplant, rinse and dry. Slice the fan layers about 1/2″ thick ending the cuts close to the base. Oil the bottom of a baking dish inserting the eggplants. Slice tomatoes into 1/4″ pieces and toss in some finely diced garlic. Then layer the tomato between the “fans” of the eggplant. Drizzle olive oil over the everything and sprinkle with sea salt and cracked pepper. Place in a preheated 300 degree oven for about one hour. Test with a knife to make sure they’re completely cooked.
This dish makes a great vegetarian entree or an unusual side for a summer barbeque. We served it on a bed of fresh greens and drizzled a balsamic glaze over the eggplant as a flavor accent. Delish!