Summer Vegetable Tian

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I first saw the idea for a vegetable tian in an issue of Martha Stewart magazine many years ago. It looked hard. And fussy. I didn’t have a food processor, but I did have a little baby, and the thought of slicing all those vegetables seemed out of the question–who had the time? But things change, right? A few weeks ago, I saw another recipe on Pinterest and thought I’d give it a try. I have a trusty food processor now, making all that slicing easy. And that little baby is 13, so I can use sharp cutting tools without too much worry. Perfect timing!

A vegetable tian is basically thinly sliced vegetables that are stacked, seasoned and roasted until tender. Then topped with some cheese and baked until melty. This is a reasonably healthy, tasty and pretty dish–perfect for a dinner party or holiday dinner since it looks so fancy. Although we had this as a side dish, it would make a terrific vegetarian entree if you subbed the Parmesan cheese for soy cheese!

For our tian, I used late summer vegetables that I had handy–zucchini, purple potatoes and Roma tomatoes. I would have used yellow squash, but we had eaten it all. Ditto for the eggplant. The next time I make this, I’ll probably add some yellow squash and onion slices for some added flavor. And I may leave out the tomatoes since I am the only tomato fanatic in the house. You could make this with any vegetables you have handy as long as they can be sliced thin (sorry, broccoli, you’re on the sidelines for this one).

Looking ahead (although I am still not finished with summer), a fall version with sweet potatoes and squash would be pretty phenomenal–maybe drizzled with maple syrup!

While my “little one” isn’t so little anymore, I wonder if smaller children would love to see the animated movie Ratatouille, followed by helping to make the vegetable stacks for the pan. Maybe that would increase interest in eating vegetables??? This is one dish that involves some fun and creativity in the prep work!

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Summer Vegetable Tian (makes 8 servings)

  • 2 zucchini, washed and trimmed
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, washed and trimmed
  • 1 quart purple potatoes, scrubbed and trimmed
  • Kosher or sea salt, to taste
  • Ground, black pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Coat a 9 x 13 baking dish with cooking spray or oil.
  3. Slice all vegetables to equal thickness (ours were on the thinnest setting of the food processor).
  4. Arrange vegetables in stacks within the baking dish–I used a little pattern, but you could be random–whatever works for you.
  5. When all your vegetables are safely tucked in, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Cover and roast for about 30-40 minutes. Vegetables should be soft.
  6. Uncover, top with cheese and bake for another 15 minutes.
  7. Serve immediately.

Southern Succotash

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I’ve always loved vegetable mixes, especially that popular mix of corn, carrots and Lima beans called succotash. To me, the three vegetables combined were always more interesting than they were served individually. And then, of course, there is the name “succotash”, which always seemed fun to say, especially if you use your best Sylvester the Cat voice and say “Sufferin’ Succotash.” But I digress.

This succotash has a lovely, summer Southern flavor based on vegetables that are plentiful here in late summer North Carolina. It is a delicious and vitamin rich side dish, but served on top of organic rice, grits or corn bread, it is also a hearty, vegetarian main dish. This version centers on okra, tomatoes, field peas and onions, all grown within 50 miles. So delicious, so healthy, so summer. Sufferin’? Not hardly–how about celebratin’ succotash?

Southern Succotash (makes 4 entree portions or 6 side dish portions)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 sweet, organic onion, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cloves organic garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 quart baby okra, washed and trimmed
  • 1 quart cherry tomatoes (we used purple splash)
  • 1 quart pink eye field peas (any field pea or butter bean would work)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Kosher or sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
  1. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add the onions and sauté until just softened, about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the tomatoes and okra. Cook until tomatoes start to release their juices, about 5 minutes.
  5. Stir well and add the fresh field peas and thyme.
  6. Reduce heat , cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until peas are just tender. If mixture becomes dry, add about a half cup of water and continue cooking.

Grilled Caprese Sandwiches

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I love Caprese salad, with its layers of fresh mozzarella, juicy tomatoes and brightly flavored basil. It really is the essence of summer. But Caprese salad is hard to eat while hot footing it to a softball practice, so this is Caprese in sandwich form. Grilled. With some smoky prosciutto. And pesto. Yum! Summer on the run!

Grilled Caprese Sandwiches (makes 1 sandwich)

  • 2 slices fresh bread
  • 1 tablespoon basil pesto
  • 2 slices fresh tomato
  • 1 large slice fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 2 thin slices prosciutto
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  1. Heat 1/2 tablespoon butter in a small sauté pan over medium heat.
  2. While butter is melting, assemble the sandwiches by spreading the basil pesto on one side of a slice of bread. Top pesto with tomato, cheese and prosciutto. Add second slice of bread.
  3. When butter stops bubbling. Add the sandwich to the pan, browning one side.
  4. Using a spatula, lift the sandwich up, put the last 1/2 of the butter in the pan and flip the sandwich to brown the other side.
  5. Sandwich is done when the bread is nicely browned and crispy and the cheese is melty.

Fish with Fennel and Tomato

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This is an oldie, but a goodie! Just made this again this weekend and was reminded of how wonderful I few simple ingredients can be!

Someday, I am going to retire and move to Italy. In my mind, that retirement includes doing yoga on the sunny balcony of an apartment in Cinque Terre, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. And shopping in the weekly market to buy fresh cheese and produce and local olives, capers, tomatoes and fish. And socializing with the other local old people who gather at the market. That image often helps me get through the most stressful workdays and puts a smile on my face in the most tiresome meetings. It’s my mental happy place.

This recipe may become the tangible representation of my idyllic dream. A culinary happy place. With some fresh fish from Locals Seafood, local fennel, local tomatoes we froze whole over the summer and parsley and thyme from our garden, this is a quick, summertime winner. If you want to grill your fish, you could do that and make the sauce in a separate dish–easy!

Fish with Tomato and Fennel (4 servings)

  • 4 fish fillets (we used local Spanish Mackerel)
  • 1/4 cup high quality olive oil
  • 1 bulb fennel, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 6 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup unpitted olives (optional)
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed (optional)
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian, flat leaf parsley
  • Kosher or sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and cook without browning until it is soft (about 15 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the thyme and garlic and cook an additional 1 minute. Stir well.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, olives and capers to the pan. Raise the heat a bit and cook until the mixture is thick, but not dry (about 15 minutes depending on how much liquid your tomatoes hold). Reserve and keep warm.
  4. Cook fish to your preference (I pan seared ours, but grilling would be great also).
  5. Plate the fish and top with the tomato and fennel sauce. Garnish with parsley.
  6. Pour yourself a glass of wine, inhale the delicious aroma and dream…

Football Sadness and Three Pepper Chili

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Well, the Denver Broncos are finished for the season and I am sad.

It was a fun season and I enjoyed wearing my John Elway jersey every Sunday. But life goes on and I’ll have fun watching how the rest of the season progresses. I love football and I love football season food. One thing I am not sad about is the amount of fresh vegetables we froze and put up this past summer. What a wonderful gift we have given ourselves this winter! We made this chili to watch Denver’s final game using our frozen summer tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, sweet peppers and onions to make this three pepper chili. This chili is packed with protein from organic kidney and black beans as well as ground beef from Rare Earth Farm. You could also add carrots and other vegetables as well and adjust the seasonings to your own taste (I like my chili hot).

Great on a cold day, even better if your team is winning 🙂

Three Pepper Chili

  • 1 organic onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves of organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 sweet peppers, trimmed and chopped (or 1 bell pepper)
  • 2 smoked chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
  • 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped (or 1 can of diced tomatoes)
  • 1 lb. of ground beef (preferably local and hormone free)
  • 2 cans organic red kidney beans, undrained
  • 1 can organic black beans, undrained
  • 1 tbsp. smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp. dried chili pepper
  1. In a large stock pot, heat the olive oil on medium heat. Add chopped onions and garlic. Cook until transparent, lowering heat if garlic begins to brown (or you can remove the garlic and add it back in with the tomatoes).
  2. Add the ground beef and brown.
  3. Add the peppers and cook an additional 5-8 minutes, until vegetables are soft.
  4. Add the tomatoes, beans and dried seasonings and simmer for 30 minutes. Check for seasoning and correct if necessary.
  5. Serve with shredded pepper jack cheese or a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.

 

Fish with Tomato and Fennel

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Someday, I am going to retire and move to Italy. In my mind, that retirement includes doing yoga on the sunny balcony of an apartment in Cinque Terre, overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. And shopping in the weekly market to buy fresh cheese and produce and local olives, capers, tomatoes and fish. And socializing with the other local old people who gather at the market. That image often helps me get through the most stressful workdays and puts a smile on my face in the most tiresome meetings. It’s my mental happy place.

I found this recipe today in the New York Times and it may become the tangible representation of my idyllic dream. A culinary happy place. With some fresh fish from Locals Seafood, local fennel, local tomatoes we froze whole over the summer and some organic olives and capers, I think this will be a winner. When we canned and froze tomatoes over the summer, I envisioned being able to coax a bit of summer in the dead of winter and this may do just the trick. For Tom, I will leave off the olives (actually, I will add them to my plate :-)) so we can both be happy. Will post photos of the final product!

Fish with Tomato and Fennel (4 servings)

  • 4 fish fillets (I’m using NC striped bass)
  • 1/4 cup high quality olive oil
  • 1 bulb fennel, trimmed and chopped
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 6 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup unpitted olives
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed
  • 1/2 cup chopped Italian, flat leaf parsley
  • Kosher or sea salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat the olive oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the fennel and cook without browning until it is soft (about 15 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the thyme and garlic and cook an additional 1 minute. Stir well.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, olives and capers to the pan. Raise the heat a bit and cook until the mixture is thick, but not dry (about 15 minutes depending on how much liquid your tomatoes hold). Reserve and keep warm.
  4. Cook fish to your preference (I will pan sear these babies).
  5. Plate the fish and top with the tomato and fennel sauce. Garnish with parsley.
  6. Pour yourself a glass of wine, inhale the delicious aroma and dream…
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