Thursday, August 21, 2008
I'm sorry - how did it get to the end of August? I had all these recipes that I was thinking were really "summer" recipes, so I was going to wait for "summer" and now it's almost over. I have to keep reminding myself that it's not officially over until somewhere around September 21st, and the month of September really is lovely in Seattle. Still, if you ever went to school, you know that summer is, for all intents and purposes, over after Labor Day.
So, I'd better get to it with these recipes. I need to feature lots of peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, and corn until the farmers start bringing in the mushrooms and squashes. This Succotash recipe is perfect if you shop at the Farmer's Markets or if you get a CSA box because almost everything you need will be easily found with the possible exception of the celery.
A word about the cookbook this came from. It's called The Voluptuous Vegan and it probably, more than any other book, changed the way I cook. A vegan is someone who not only doesn't eat meat, but doesn't eat anything that comes from an animal - eggs, dairy, even honey. It can seem a little restrictive, but take a look at the pages of this book and you will see a whole new world open up. I am not a vegan but this is one of my favorite cookbooks and one of the first few I turn to when I want to make something special.
I got this cookbook before Randy and I got married, at a time when I was teaching yoga. I taught about 12 classes a week which, in addition to my own practice, was a lot of yoga. However, it left me a fair amount of free time and I used that time to cook. Up until that point in my life, I was a good and adventurous cook - I had made us some wonderful meals. But I was fascinated by the dishes I read about and, lucky for me, had the time to really experiment and try some of the more time consuming ones. The sheer bounty of the food made me re-think dinner. Why not make all the components incredible, not just the main course?
In The Voluptuous Vegan, rather than chapters focusing on ingredients or courses, the author (Myra Kornfeld) has compiled a series of menus with some lovely little notes about each one including the order you can make things in and how it looks best served. Usually I don't like menu cookbooks - I don't want someone telling me what to serve with what - I like to have that creative license. But the choices she has made along with the flavor pairings, and the simply startlingly delicious, incredibly full-flavored, beautiful-to-look-at meals made me trust everything she said.
The first think I ever made from it was a Paella for a dinner party. There were so many steps, so many different components - steaming tempeh, then roasting it with cauliflower and chickpeas, making a tomato sauce to go into the rice, and then another sauce to be served with it. Roasting cherry tomatoes as a garnish, and using silken tofu to make a roasted garlic aoli. It couldn't be worth all that work, right? Was it ever. Every other vegetarian paella I had had up until that point tasted like rice with vegetables and saffron with the exception of those I had in Spain on our honeymoon. Here was a dish that really stood on it's own and has impressed every single one of my meat-eating friends I have served it to.
If you make the whole menu, yes, this is a time-consuming (but not complicated) recipe. With the Succotash, you can make polenta squares topped with a homemade chile paste to spice them up. You can make (the best in my opinion) guacamole to dollop on top of the dish. Or you can just do your own thing and serve the Succotash with cornbread, grits, or even rice. It's fresh, light, and totally seasonal.
By the way, Randy didn't even notice the beet greens.
Adapted from The Voluptuous Vegan
Kornfeld suggests you use dried lima beans here and give instructions for cooking them. Everytime I have made it, I have used frozen which saves you a lot in the overall cooking time. Don't be daunted by the long list of ingredients - it's just a lot of chopping. Here is the time to practice your knife skills!
1 medium onion, diced
2 medium carrots, sliced into 1/3 inch rounds
2 celery stalks, sliced 1/3 inch
1 each red and yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1 inch chunks
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup frozen lima beans
2 cups water
1 each medium zucchini and yellow squash, sliced into 1/3 inch rounds
2 ears of corn, kernels cut off the cob
Juice of one lemon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
In a large pot or saucepan, heat just enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add the onion, celery, carrot, bell peppers, and a good pinch of salt. Saute over medium-high heat until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook an additional 5 minutes. Add the lima beans and another pinch of salt.
Pour in the water and bring to a boil. Add the zucchini, squash, and corn. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Squeeze the lemon over the stew and sprinkle with cayenne. Adjust salt to taste.