End-of-Summer Vegetable Extravaganza

serves 2

By mid-September, the San Francisco's Farmers' Market is overflowing with all of late summer's bounty. Tomatoes, peppers, melons, figs, plums, corn (the last of the season), basil.... are overflowing from all of the farmer's stands. No matter how much will power we try to muster, we still find it impossible to leave the market without buying more than the two of us could possibly consume in a normal week.

On a recent Friday evening, we faced a refrigerator that was still full from the previous week's shopping and the Saturday market was just around the corner. From the refrigerator, we pulled out 2 medium-sized bulb fennel, 2 huge portabella mushrooms, an assortment of red, yellow and orange peppers (including some spicy cayenne), a bunch of spring onions and about 8 dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes. We felt compelled to use up as many of these vegetables as we could and we let our inspiration gallop -- spurred on by a few glasses of Sangiovese. We came up with an improvised antipasto-like vegetable platter. And in just over an hour, what we sat down to eat was so tasty, we've decided to include it in this Sunday Supper Home Page. This dish would be a perfect Sunday supper.

Although this was strictly a vegetarian platter, the portabella mushrooms, often called the "steak" of vegetables, had the taste and texture of thinly sliced London broil. They were surrounded by sparkles of flavor from the other vegetables, each seasoned with its own sauce. If you don't have all of these ingredients in your refrigerator, it's worth planning ahead a bit to make this dish before the summer vegetables are over for the season. Sip some Sangiovese while you cook and come up with your own inspirations!

Roasted Tomatoes:
  • Cut a few ripe, full-flavored tomatoes cross-wise and place them cut side down on a flat baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Sprinkle them with salt and scatter some slivered garlic and sprigs of fresh herbs around them (thyme, oregano, etc.).
  • Bake in a 375 oven. The tomatoes will begin to exude water. Pour off the water every 10-15 minutes. After the first 15 minutes, you should be able to pluck off the outer skin. If the skin is resisting, try again after the next 15 minutes. (I've found that if the skin still doesn't slough off easily at that point, it's not a tough skin and it's not worth the trouble to remove it.)
  • Cook the tomatoes in this way until they've lost most of their water. (It'll take about 60 minutes or more, depending on the water content of your tomatoes.)
  • Remove them from the oven. You can use the tomatoes in halves or cut them into smaller pieces, depending on the size of the tomato you started with. Mix with a little strawberry vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste.
Roasted Peppers:
  • Place your assortment of peppers on a flat baking sheet covered with aluminum foil (for easy clean up) and broil until the skins are charred black (turning a turn each time to get even charring).
  • Immediately transfer the peppers to a plastic or paper bag. Seal the bag tightly and let the peppers sweat.
  • When they're cool enough to handle (in about 20 minutes), remove the charred skins and seed the peppers.
  • Cut them lengthwise into " strips. Place the pepper strips in a shallow bowl.
  • Sauce:

    Boil 1 large clove of peeled garlic for 30 seconds. Finely chop it and mix into the peppers. Drizzle with just a little olive oil to moisten. Salt and pepper to taste.

Portabella Mushrooms:
  • Remove the stem from 1-2 large portabellas (i.e., 4 - 5" in diameter). Wash them lightly.
  • Brush the top side of the cap with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Place the caps gill-side up in a flat ceramic roasting pan. Drizzle the gills with olive oil and smear one clove of crushed garlic on each one.
  • Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake in a 375 oven for about 45 minutes.
  • Have the sauce ready:

    1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
    2 TBS olive oil
    Few big pinches of herbes de Provence.
Fennel:
  • Put a whole bulb fennel in salted, boiling water so that it is fully covered and simmer for about 20 minutes. The fennel should be tender but not mushy.
  • Remove from the hot water and quickly immerse in a bowl of ice-cold water to stop the cooking.
  • After it has cooled, dry it and then slice into thin (about 1/8") ribbons, removing the core as necessary.
  • Sauce:

Mix 2 TBS good Dijon-type mustard with 2 TBS white wine vinegar. Then add about 1/3 cup olive oil and 1-2 TBS chopped fresh dill.

  • Mix the sauce into the fennel and let the flavors marry while you're preparing the other items.

Final Assembly and Serving:

Notes:

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