Friday, October 17, 2008

Summer Splendor

It's the end of the Indian summer in San Francisco. In order to give a last hurrah to those colorful, beautiful summer vegetables that gave me so much pleasure all summer long, I had a Goodbye Summer apéritif party.
Apéritif, a French word which means "stimulate the appetite", consists of snacks and drinks before a meal, not unlike Spanish tapas. For a simple apéritif, you nibble on little things like nuts, olives, crackers, for a more elaborate one, you have an assortment of amuse-bouche, spreads, small salads. There are specific aperitif drinks like Pastis (an anise-flavored liquor typical of the south of France), but you can also drink wine, liquors and martinis.
I chose to make apéritif dînatoire, a big casual dinner, out of it. To do this, just lay everything out on a table in your nicest dishware, whip out the fancy silverware, and let your guests enjoy.
Bon appétit!

Grilled fennel and apple in orange marinade
Double layered potato with Cannellini bean-caper purée
Orange and Green soups:
Carrot ginger soup, Zucchini-anise soup
Assorted spreads :
Hummus, Baba Ganoush,
Kalamata-Red Pepper Tapenade
Tomato pesto
Tomates à la Provençale
Tomates en crudités
Zucchini linguini
Basil Peaches

Grilled fennel and apple in orange marinade
Grilled fennel and apple, carrot ginger soup, zucchini anise soup

This was a hit, and it looked very pretty.

1 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced
1 apple, thinly sliced
1 orange
1 lemon
1 tbsp pastis
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
½ cup olive oil

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade. Add the thin slices of apples and fennel. Let soak for at least 30 minutes, but you can also leave it all day.
Arrange fennel flat on a baking pan. Top each slice with a slice of apple. Drizzle with remaining marinade.
Bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 350˚.
Present the dish on a large flat plate, and, for decoration, add small fennel leaves.
You can eat it hot or cold.

Double layered potato with Cannellini bean/caper purée

2 yellow potatoes
1 long orange-fleshed sweet potato (yam)
2 tbsp capers
1 1/2 cups Cannellini beans
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

Cut all the potatoes in 1/5 inch slices. Align the sweet potatoes slices in a flat oven dish. Top with potatoes slices. Brush with olive oil, salt and pepper.
Bake in oven for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, blend together the ingredients for the purée.
When the double layered potatoes are baked, align on a flat dish and top with a dollop of bean spread.

Orange and Green soups
These two colorful soups were a great addition to the dinner. You can enjoy them cold, but I preferred them warm. I presented them separately, one in a small martini glass, one in a simple small glass, but you can also pour both soups in the same glass, without mixing them, for a beautiful bi-color effect.

Carrot ginger soup
1 lb sliced carrots
1 cup onion
1 cup chopped celery
2 tbsp chopped ginger
5 cups vegetarian broth or water
2-3 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp oil

In the oil, put carrots, onions, ginger and celery. Sauté until soft. Add 5 cups of broth/water, heat, but don't reach boiling point, then simmer for 20 minutes. Blend in food processor until creamy. When serving, add lime juice.

Zucchini anise soup
4 medium size zucchini
1 medium size potato
1 tbsp of ground anise
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3 cups of water
Cut potatoes and zucchini in small squares. In a pan, cook all the ingredients in water, until everything is mushy. Blend with a hand blender.
NB: you can also add Pastis for a more anise-ey flavor.

I love making batches of spreads and keeping jars of homemade hummus, baba ganoush, tapenade, etc. in my fridge to eat for breakfast, and any time I need a quick fix. I also use them in lunch sandwiches, or bring them at picnics or potlucks…
Offer them around in cute second-hand jars and your friends will love you forever.

Adapted from Didi Emmons' Vegetarian Planet (one of my favorite cookbook)

The good thing with bean spreads is that if you combine them to cereals (a slice of bread, a rice cracker…) you have complete protein, which means you can keep those muscles of yours nice and strong.
It's also delicious with apples.

2 tablespoons tahini (raw or made with toasted sesame, depending on your taste)
2 tsp minced garlic
¼ cup olive oil
2 cups garbanzo beans
1/3 cup lemon juice (or more, if you want like it citrussey, I often press one lemon and one lime)
2 tbsp minced shallot
2 tsp ground thyme
2 tsp ground sumac
½ salt (if the sumac is mixed with salt, cut the salt that the recipe calls for)
1/3 cup water (or less, depending on how thick it is)
Purée in blender until creamy.

Baba Ganoush
Easy and delicious
1 large eggplant
1 ½ tahini
1 large garlic clove
1/3 cup minced shallot
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
½ smoked salt
¼ pepper
3 tbsp chopped cilantro
Bake eggplant in oven (cut in half, pierce skin, and bake face down on a slightly oiled pan until soft. It might take 50 minutes, or more. I like to bake it in advance (the day before, in the morning…) so I don't have to wait there until it cools down.
Mix everything except eggplant in blender. Add eggplant, mix well. The taste can be a little strong and disappointing at first, but let it sit and you wont believe it.
(You get MANY social points with this one.)

Kalamata-Red Pepper Tapenade
1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and cut
1 red peppers
1 Tbsp. capers
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried parsley
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Pepper, to taste

Bake red pepper in the oven at 350 for about ½ hour. When it's limp and can be peeled off easily, take off the skin. Cut in strips.
Combine all the ingredients, in a blender or food processor. Pulse until combined.
(I found this recipe here)

Oven baked tomatoes: 2 recipes
Tomates à la provençale and Tomato pesto.
12 firm tomatoes (early girl, roma…)
Herbes de provence
Olive oil

Additional ingredients for the pesto:
4 cloves of garlic
½ cup of pine nuts
2 tbsp of nutritional yeast (for cheesy taste and creamy texture)

Preheat oven at 300. Cut tomatoes in half and dispose, cut side up, on a large, oil-coated oven pan. Add 2 garlic cloves. Sprinkle with herbes de Provence, salt, pepper and olive oil. Bake for an hour, but take out the garlic after 30 minutes.

Use half of the tomatoes for the pesto. Let them cool for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, roast the pine nuts in an oiled pan. Mix all the ingredients: roasted and raw garlic, roasted pine nuts, tomatoes and nutritional yeast in an electric blender.

Serve the tomates à la provençale, hot or cold, flat on a plate.

Zucchini linguini
This is simple, delicious, pretty, and pleasantly crunchy.

4 zucchini
salt, pepper
olive oil
1 lime

With a peeler, peel the zucchini lengthwise, to the core, into thin, long strips. Sauté these in a pan, in several batches, one handful at a time, adding salt and pepper to taste. If you don't want to use too much oil, you can throw in some water (not much) to finish the cooking process. They will stay crunchy (if you don't overcook them).
You can eat them warm or cold.
Drizzle with a little lime juice.

Mixed heirlooms tomatoes

Slice tomatoes of different kinds and colors, arrange on a plate and drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar (optional) and basil leaves.
I grew up fed on garden vegetables and cannot eat those bland things shamelessly sold as "tomatoes" without feeling depressed. Some California farms, thankfully, grow heirloom tomatoes, very ancient varieties, which are so good that the best way to savor them is raw. Sprinkle with sea salt and balsamic if you wish, and do not forget the olive oil: fat allows your body to absorb lycopene.

Basil peaches
5 juicy peaches
2 tbsp Agave syrup
½ cup water
10 basil leaves, cut in small strips
Cut basil leaves in small strips (Roll up the leaves and slice). In a small pan, heat up water and agave syrup. Cut peaches in pieces. In a big bowl, mix all ingredients. Let sit in the fridge for at least ½ hour, serve cold.

1 comment:

Jill Stevens, Licensed Acupuncturist, Chinese Herbalist said...

Where was I? Why was I not invited to such a party? I must have been indisposed or perhaps you are saving my invitation for the next one?