Simple Art of Cooking: Turn Vegetables Into Bowls of Deliciousness

“It’s the time of the year when everything is growing,” my mother would say. I’m having the best time with our treasure trove of local ingredients at farmers markets and farm stands. We still have corn and tomatoes, and eggplant and zucchini, and an amazing selection of greens—at least for another couple of weeks. Could I be a vegetarian? Not really—I would miss my fish, chicken, eggs, butter, yogurt, etc. and occasional meat dishes.

And now Mark Bittman, the New York Times food writer, comes along making a great case for dining vegan, at least occasionally. To quote from his September 18 column in the dining section of the Times, “It’s not worth trying to persuade anyone to become vegan, for a couple of reasons: one, it’s a losing battle, and two, it’s far from certain that a diet with no animal products is best for everyone. It’s increasingly evident, however, that a part-time vegan diet—one that emphasizes minimally processed plant food at the expense of everything else—is the direction that will do the most to benefit human health.” He continued with much more dialogue on the issue.

At about the time I read Bittman’s column I also ran across a recipe from Bill Clinton’s vegan diet in AARP magazine, which I found appealing. The quinoa salad (I’m a big fan of quinoa, the super grain) contained red onion, fresh tomato, cucumber, herbs, olive oil and lemon. What could be bad? I proceeded to prepare the dish and found it in need of flavoring such as salt. Salt is a flavor carrier and just a very small amount brought the dish alive. I’ve also been enjoying corn chowder with vegetables and find it very satisfying. In his column, Bittman offers cornmeal (hoecakes) with fruit for breakfast. Have the quinoa salad for lunch and corn chowder for dinner. In this way, you too can be a vegan for a day!

QUINOA WITH VEGETABLES AND HERBS

Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a supergrain with a high nutrition profile. It cooks quickly, has a crunchy, nutlike flavor, and contrasts well with vegetables

Serves 4

3/4 cup quinoa
3 cups cold water or vegetable stock
3 tablespoons diced red onion
1 tomato, diced
1 Kirby cucumber, peeled anddiced
3 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon coarsely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons basil ribbons (stacked and sliced crosswise)
1 small or 1/2 jalapeno, seeded and diced
3 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Place the quinoa in a saucepan and pour over the water or stock. Cover pan, bring liquid to a boil then reduce heat to a brisk simmer and cook quinoa for 20 to 25 minutes. When done, drain in a sieve over a bowl and allow to drain well and to cool completely.

2. Meanwhile prepare ingredients for the salad and place them in a large bowl as they are done. Dress the ingredients with the oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar and toss to mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the quinoa and, with two large spoons, toss to mix thoroughly. Taste again for seasonings and adjust as necessary. Can be prepared up to a day ahead. Refrigerate covered in a suitable container and serve slightly chilled.

EAST END CORN CHOWDER

The farmers tell me that fresh local corn will be around for another couple of weeks. Can’t let go of this favorite vegetable just yet!

Makes 6 to 8 servings

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium red onion, diced
2 cups fresh corn kernels, about 3 to 4 cornhusks
2 to 3 carrots, diced
2 to 3 inner ribs celery, diced
5 cups vegetable broth or water
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Chive garnish (optional)

1. In a large saucepan heat oil and sauté the onions until golden, add the corn, carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.

2. Add the cornhusks, the broth or water, thyme, salt and pepper to taste, and stir to mix. Bring to the edge of a boil then continue to cook over medium heat until the vegetables are tender. Remove corn husks and discard. Can be done ahead to this point.

3. Taste to adjust seasoning if necessary. Serve hot with chive garnish if desired.

For Silvia’s blogs and more recipes visit savoringthehamptons.com.

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