Archive for the ‘Simpler Vegetables’ Category


Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

                Meanwhile, yuppies and babushkas alike might find useful notions here . . .


Halve lengthwise and bake cut side down 2 Japanese eggplants per person with a little olive oil at high heat for about 40 minutes, until they’re crinkly outside and reasonably soft inside. Some halves, of course, in their recalcitrant serpentine attitudes will refuse to lie flat, so cut them amidships. Cool, and spoon over the eggplants a bit of Lupo vinaigrette.

NOTE:   You can combine these mini-bananas with roasted sweet peppers, and with or without this addition you could translate them from a main course dish to an antipasto misto component.

OR:   Lay your eggplants over mini-cassoulet (see meats) minus the sausages. Or – recent brainstorm! – lay them over pasta sauced with a pesto in which you substitute watercress for basil; in this case, somewhat up the lemon content in the pesto.

BAKED VEGETABLES JULIE with assorted toppings

Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

        The verduran building blocks of this misto cry out for interesting placement on your diners’ plates.  The architectural challenge will be a little greater if you borrow some Japanese eggplant, sans vinaigrette, from the recipe after this one . . . 

        Vegetables, excellent ones, gorgeous ones, prima donnas of the boutique farms, we investigate them every Saturday in San Francisco at the Embarcadero farmers’ market, the “yuppie market” as it’s called to distinguish it from the Wednesday do favored by the babushka set over behind the Orpheum, on the border of Civic Center’s Beaux Arts splendor and the land of the Homeless.  Theatrical rainbows of peppers, exquisite string beans, tomatoes good enough to eat rather than use for some sort of target practice, this is the lineup — but the Embarcadero market is more than p.c. eats, it’s the place where my life seems to unroll like some ambulatory alumni magazine.  Here one meets everyone, old flames next to new potatoes, colleagues from abandoned careers, a lost friend to remind me of an ancient indiscretion.  A famous film critic will be there, cookbook people galore, and at 9 a.m. there’s Maestro Michael Tilson Thomas holding court outside the local coffee house, conducting perhaps with a breadstick.


Halve lengthwise some crookneck squash, summer squash and zucchini, sculpt as you wish a carrot and a bulb of fennel, and julienne some sweet red pepper.  Put all in a single layer on a cookie sheet and top with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a sprinkle of your favorite herbs.  Then bake in a moderate oven for about 40 minutes.

That is the basic recipe.  At serving time I like to single out some of the yellow squash for spreading with a mixture of Dijon mustard and bread crumbs, and spoon a simple vinaigrette with finely chopped anchovy over the zucchini and fennel or more of your vegeto-rama.  Another useful topping is a “syrup” of sliced onions sautéed with olive oil, capers and balsamic vinegar.


Sunday, September 2nd, 2007

        The idea of corn on the cob as a solo course we got from a poolside lunch at our friend Jimmy Schwabacher’s under that up-market Carmel Valley sky.  That was some time back, but not as long ago as the 30s when I remember traveling “up the valley” with my parents (could I have been in the rumble seat of the green ’37 Chevy?)  to buy corn at thirty cents a dozen, the price from outer space.  Jimmy served us three ears each and I would say two are the minimum – with nothing else on a big plate.  He was right, of course: corn on the cob does need one’s undivided attention.  Wasn’t there an old cartoon showing a diligent canine gastronome working his way across the kernel keyboard until the bell rings?

        And as for that expression to serve a vegetable “in state,” I can trace it back another generation.  My Zeisler Bloomfield grandmother, an expert, by the way, in the art of seven layer cakes — and she had a diploma in piano from the Vienna Conservatoire, signed by Hellmesberger himself — was writing home from Algiers in 1905 where she’d accompanied her Sanskritologist husband to a conference of “Orientalists,” and the dinner she reports on from the garden-surrounded Beau Séjour Hotel positioned a nice helping of spinach exactly thus.  But one didn’t dine on spinach alone in old Algiers, there was soup, fish, chicken and artichokes, mutton and lettuce salad, hot baked apples, figs, nuts and raisins.

        Back at 861 Park in Baltimore, my father and aunt read that this meal was “rather well cooked.”


        My grandmother, perhaps for her sanity, only played her Steinway at holiday parties on Park Avenue.  Concertizing she left to her assorted cousins including the one who was known as the Jupiter of the Octaves and scared the cook with his budding keyboard genius — I’m sure he was a little stuck up as well.

        Her letters from the field were a little bossy when my teenage father with his head in the clouds needed to be reminded about some prosaic duty, probably monetary, but the warmth in them is unmistakeable.  They unroll a Time Machine tapestry of travel in the age before airborne cattle cars came into vogue; the inconveniences in 1905, except for what one sea captain called “that confused ocean,” were simply different.

        Read here about the market in Gibraltar with its profusion of flowers and fruits along with “live chickens and doubtful looking eggs,” potato races and three-legged races on board the Dominion liner crossing the Mediterranean (I don’t think this was a “Love Boat”), “noise and fleas” in Bologna (bad luck, I suspect) and only delight in Venice . . .


Steam your allotment of ears of corn with a pinch of sugar for about 10 minutes and serve with a crock of butter and no frills.