End-of-Summer Vegetable Extravaganza
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
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
- 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
- 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
¼ 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 ½" strips. Place the pepper strips in a
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
- 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
- Have the sauce ready:
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2 TBS olive oil
Few big pinches of herbes de Provence.
- 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.
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:
- Have all the vegetables other than the portabellas laid out decoratively in piles on one
large flat platter. Add green onions or other trim items, as desired.
- As soon as the mushrooms are soft to the touch, remove them from the oven and slice each
cap into thin slices. Toss the slices lightly with the dressing and let them sit for about
1 minute to absorb some dressing.
- Place the sliced portabellas on the platter and serve immediately.
- Accompany with fresh focaccia to help sop up the wonderful sauces that remain.
- Sangiovese: This is the
wine to sip while preparing the meal and to accompany your Sunday supper!
- Preparation time: It's
best to start the preparation in the order listed because the tomatoes and mushrooms need
about 45 - 60 minutes to cook.
- Peppers: It's fun to include a few spicy ones to
give the dish a little zip!
- Dill: We had never used dill in combination with
fennel and were very pleasantly surprised how much of an affinity they have for each