When I was growing up my grandmother had a vocabulary all her own. My grandma had a davenport, not a couch. She cleaned out the icebox. In our house it was cleaning out the fridge. Well, icebox sounds more frugal and quaint so I'll skip a generation and revert. The principle is the same: you choose an evening when your picky spouse is away and you pull out all those leftovers that would have gone bad if you left them in there much longer. And you feast.
I've been pretty unambitious lately in the cooking department. In some ways, having a grill has liberated me from fancy cooking in the summer. All I need is a slab of protein, a few spices and a few seconds to heat the gas grill and we have perfect summer food. So if I do anything special at all, it's probably going to be vegetable-based. And I did a few tasty vegetables this week, none of which seemed exciting enough to justify a post on its own. But they made a great dinner for me tonight. And so, collectively, I guess they make a post.
Tonight's dinner was a trio of tasty vegetable side dishes. Together they made a fabulous meal. Too bad my vegetarian friends Barrett and his-lovely-wife-Rebecca are a few thousand miles away.
First up, was a recipe from a book that Barrett gave me a while back: Deborah Madsen's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I was looking for something different to do with an eggplant and something about the simplicity of this recipe (and the fact that I love all the ingredients that went into it) called to me. I made one small adjustment. I added garlic. I think that just about anything that includes olive oil and pine nuts cannot help but be improved by the addition of garlic. Blame it on my old Italin-American friend Tom: I'm a garlic fiend.
It's hardly a recipe. You take a medium eggplant and cut it in one inch cubes. Pour about a 1/4 cup of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and toss the eggplant cubes in it. Put on a relatively high flame and stir every few minutes to brown the eggplant cubes on all sides. In the meantime, slice finely a plump garlic clove. Add it to the pan with about a 1/4 cup pine nuts. Toss. When the garlic smells sweet and the pine nuts are just starting to brown, turn the heat down to its lowest point and cover. Let the eggplant steam until it's tender. Toss with 2 Tbs fresh parsley and a generous pinch of salt and serve. It's lovely. The eggplant's nuttiness goes well with the pine nuts, the parsley gives a fresh taste to everything and there's an underlying olive oil theme. Heavenly. I don't know why the Critic didn't want any when he came home from work last night but I was glad he didn't: more for me.
Next up, was a simple cherry tomato and cucumber salad. This "recipe" is even less complicated than the last. Take one small container of yogurt (brassé for preference) and into it mix 1-2 Tbs fresh or frozen chopped dill and one pressed small clove of garlic. Mix well and toss with half a cucumber (sliced) and a handful of quartered cherry tomatoes. Salt to taste and let steep in the fridge (icebox) for 15 minutes or more so that the flavors can mingle. Serve cold
And if you are lucky, you'll serve the latter on a smal salad of lettuce leaves and cherry tomatoes from your own garden. What amazed me most about the lettuce (pictured above) is how fresh it stayed despite the abuse it received from me. Day one: I picked the lettuce, washed it, put it in a towel to drain and forgot it. Day two: found the lettuce and put it in a tupperware-like container in the fridge. Day four: brought the container of lettuce to work and realized afterwards that I had an engagement to lunch with a friend. D'oh! Brought home salad, where it sat on the dining room table on a hot summer day for several hours before I finally remembered it and had it for dinner.
And it was still crisp. Sweet.
I wonder how old those bags of salad that I occasionally buy at the grocery store are? Because they go bad in 48 hours in the fridge.