Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Sometimes a person simply needs to whip up a recipe for the sole purpose of combining all of their favorite foods on one plate. For me, this is easiest when summer is in full swing, the eggplants are big but still have their youthful purple blush, the heirloom tomatoes are Rubenesque beauties, coyly flaunting their curves in languid piles, and every herb imaginable is stacked high, fresh picked from the farm down the road. You can't walk into a market without being stopped in your tracks by some ridiculously beautiful vegetable, sitting there looking like it's been polished by hand, ready for its close-up. Food like this begs to be eaten as simply as possible, tying up a few flavors and textures into a dish that lets the ingredients sing for themselves.
I thought I'd take advantage of the culinary bounty my parents sent to me yesterday by making a fresh summer vegetable stack, with a cabernet sauvignon honey-mustard vinaigrette, goat cheese, pine nuts, and cilantro. I sliced the eggplant thinly, brushed both sides with olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and broiled them for five minutes.
I sliced the tomato into juicy rounds, and made a small salad of Mâche* leaves and cilantro tossed with a quick dressing of olive oil, cabernet vinegar, local raw honey, and whole grain mustard. When the eggplant was done (check often - it can burn quickly!) I made stacks, alternating between layers of tomato, eggplant, and dressed greens. For a final touch, toasted pine nuts and goat cheese crumbles. A terrific, simple lunch, that looked as good as it tasted.
Good food doesn't have to be expensive, time consuming, or only for special occasions. I know in a few months, when Portland moves to her winter estate under a permanent rain cloud, I'll look back on this July and think of all the gorgeous fruits and vegetables that seem to be jumping into my hands and onto my plate. But that's what eating seasonally is all about, living it up in periods of bountiful harvest, and appreciating the "off season" for both the comfort of winter vegetables and also as a period of rest, a natural connection to the land's cycles of replenishment. We are so used to finding bananas in December and grapes from Costa Rica year round, and I'll be the first to admit I haven't completely broken the habit of reaching for whatever produce is cheapest - regardless of where it came from. But the truth is, when we connect with our environment, the natural bounty of the land of our communities, we thrive on a whole new level, and eating seasonally means the tomato at the Farmer's Market, or, better yet, the one from my back yard, is the cheapest. This year I'm trying to experience the changes of the seasons, the highs and lows of natural cycles, the feasts and famines that allow a balance to be found. Wish me luck, or, even better, join me!
Our bodies were made to eat this way, so live it up, and Eat Well.
*Mâche is a delicate, sweet salad green (also known as lamb's lettuce or corn salad) that is known for its round leaves and rosette-shaped bunches. I like that the leaves are curved and hold dressing really well! It has a great nutty flavor, and is gaining popularity in the States. Try it!
This is a submission to Summer Produce Recipes! one of Joelen's Culinary Adventures. Check her out!