A New Way with Vegetables
You remember the story of the Little Red Hen, who planted the seeds, harvested the wheat, milled the grain and baked the bread while the other animals lay about in the sun? When it comes to “farming”, I am not the Little Red Hen, I am the lazy dog, or maybe the noisy duck. When there were chickens to feed, Jamie was up. When there is gardening to be done, Jamie does it. But I do appreciate the fruits of his labour. He has planted a beautiful vegetable garden and I have been making full use of it, with guidance from my new cookbook Six Seasons.
Most produce is available year-round but there is nothing like strawberries in July and tomatoes in August. Unlike me, author Joshua McFadden is a farmer, and a chef. This book is a celebration of vegetables in “six seasons” – spring, early summer, midsummer, late summer, fall and winter. Each season contains recipes for the vegetables that are at their prime at that time. It’s not always clear which recipes are mains and which are sides so it’s up to you to decide.
The dishes have complex flavour but nothing is too complicated and as a bonus, the bright colours in every dish are beautiful to look at.
In the spring, we made Butter Lettuce with New Potatoes, Eggs and Pancetta Vinaigrette. We loved the dressing, but would cook the eggs longer next time.
Once we got to summer, we tried the Beet Slaw with Pistachios and Raisins, with crunchy raw beets (I added raw beet greens) and fresh mint and lemon in a sweet and sour vinaigrette resting on fresh pistachio butter. So pretty and delicious, this hit all of the flavour notes.
Moving to mid-summer, I tried the “Chinese” Beef and Broccoli. Sicilian not Asian, this is steak served over broccoli tossed with a garlicky anchovy caper-raisin vinaigrette. We also made Broccoli Rabe, Mozzarella, Anchovy and Spicy Tomato, substituting broccolini because I don’t do bitter. The broccolini was baked with tomato sauce and topped with broiled gooey cheese. Cauliflower Steaks with Provolone and Picked Peppers was cauliflower baked with a topping of chopped capers, breadcrumbs, pickled peppers and cheese. These dishes all had a great balance of salty, spicy, and acidic flavours. While they were all filling, they didn’t feel like a complete meal on their own – they needed bread or a protein on the side.
Grilled Wax and Green Beans with Tomatoes, Basil and Spicy Fish-Sauce Sauce was a favourite. I used jalapenos, mint, basil and tomatoes from our garden and it was bursting with flavour. The stars of this salad were the tomatoes and salty spicy dressing.
Now that it’s late summer, I can’t wait for corn, tomatoes and peppers. Unlike the lazy dog, I did the cooking. I’m not putting on overalls even though they are back in style … but I did like this book. A great way to eat more vegetables.
Naomi Bussin is a lawyer, mother of three and accomplished cook. Food is her favourite subject and she reads cookbooks in her spare time.