Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Perfect Storm

September is a perfect storm at my local market.

The tomatoes are out of this world. But then again, so are the carrots. And the beets. Summer and autumn smack into each other like student lovers who haven't seen each other since finals. The pairings are bountiful, a little wild, and above all - very short lived.

I don't need to do much to transform these fabulous ingredients. A little feta and olive oil.

Garlic, and olive oil...

Herbes de Provence...and olive oil.

In France - anywhere, really -  the first rule of being a great cook is being a great shopper. When you start with wonderful things, dinner mostly takes care of itself.

Sauteed Beet Greens with Garlic and Olive Oil

A great alternative to spinach or Swiss chard, I recently had my first experience with beet greens. I can't help but think of Italy when I make this - the Italians so favor humble greens that the French often overlook...

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large clove of garlic, thinly sliced
beet greens from 3 or 4 large beets

Wash the greens in a colander, but do not dry them - you want a little water clinging to the leaves.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan (or wok), add garlic and saute for 30 seconds to 1 min, until the garlic is fragrant. Add the damp greens, stir to coat with olive oil. Cook 2 minutes uncovered, then cover partially and continue cooking until greens are tender (I actually like them slightly charred), 3-4 minutes more.

Serves 2 as a side dish

September Briam

Every year when G. and I come back from our solo week in Crete, I buy a cookbook in the airport. The recipes are approximate at best, but I'm desperate to recreate some of the pure tastes (not to mention the pure relaxation) of our time there.

Briam is basically a Greek ratatouille.  It's a low stress version that bakes in the oven and makes it's own sauce. Like all dishes of this kind, the quality of the finished dish depends entirely on the veggies you start with. So hit the local farmers market and go crazy.

1 medium (or 2 baby) eggplant, cut into large chunks
2 red onions, cut into 8ths
4 carrots, halved lengthwise
3 zucchini (summer squash), 2 yellow, 1 green, cut into large chunks
1 small green pepper, cut into large chunks
2 large tomatoes, cut into 6ths
1 large tomato, for grating into the sauce
1/3 cup (79 ml) olive oil
1/3 cup (79 ml) water
1 tsp herbes de provence
1 tsp sugar
Generous sprinkle of coarse sea salt
Generous grinding of black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). In a large casserole dish, combine the vegetables. Keep your pieces big, they will have plenty of time to cook through.

Cut your remaining tomato in half, and coarsely grate it on top of the other veggies. (When you grate your tomato, press the cut half towards the grater, and grate all the way down - then throw away the skin.)

Add the olive oil, water, herbes de provence, salt, sugar and black pepper. Mix everything together with your hands, until all the vegetables are coated with the liquid.

Cover tightly, bake for 90 minutes. Uncover - baste the veggies, but don't move them around, or you'll get mush. Bake uncovered for a further 30 minutes.

Serve hot or warm, use the slick olive oil tomato sauce left at the bottom for pasta the next day. Use leftover veggies and sauce to cook fish (the photo below is monkfish filet), or as filling for an omelet.

Serves 4-6 as a side dish.


  1. It all looks delicious - I'll certainly be trying a ratatouille in the next week or so. Autumn is my favourite season!