1 August 2010

It's way better

I talked about this six-minute chocolate cake last time, or more accurately, I briefly mentioned how I successfully burnt it (the thing is called six-minute chocolate cake, because as the recipe says, it takes just as much for the cake batter to be prepared).

Today I made said cake again, this time having avoided any calamities, and I don’t quite know what to think of the stuff. This cake, it tasted funny. Weird, even. Anthony even thinks “it’s not pleasant to chew on”. Isn’t it plain awkward? I feel some serious recipe tweaking must be done. I want this cake to be fine.

That means no cake today. Again. But I didn’t come empty-handed either. I brought you some summer roasted vegetables. It’s not exactly an alternative to chocolate cake, I realize that, but I figured you would agree it’s way better to have seriously enjoyable roasted vegetables than “unpleasant to chew on” chocolate cake on your plate. Ideally, both should be fine, I hear you, but sometimes, when I’m in my own kitchen, tired, I’m just capable of doing one right thing at a time. But please, don’t let me digress; it’s important that I tell you about this roasted vegetables business.

I’m confident you’ll like it. Anthony did, and although he strongly disagrees, he is one fussy eater: “I am not really a fan of spelt flour”, was his response to my making carrot muffins with spelt flour three times in a row; or “I want things to have taste”, was a reaction I got after I’d served lentils cooked in vegetable stock -- how’s that for flavor? -- for dinner.

Funny, but initially I made these roasted vegetables for myself. I thought I would have a dinner alone the other day, so I dived into What we eat when we eat alone and found the recipe there. Even not a recipe, an idea, really. You take your favorite summer vegetables, say, eggplant, zucchini, young potatoes, young carrots, beets, if that’s what you're into, and bell peppers; toss in some aromatics such as onion and garlic; season the lot, and send it in the oven for less than thirty minutes. It is recommended that you also use a handful or two of cherry tomatoes; they’ll release their juices and get caramelized and bind together whatever vegetable material you use.

The result is rewarding, only when I made the thing I didn’t get to eat it alone. In fact, I didn’t get to eat it at all (just a few bites). Anthony wolfed down my roasted vegetables -- faster than I could take any actions, such as grabbing a fork, pushing him aside, and eating everything myself. Which made me roast another batch, and a batch more after that: “I could eat it every day and not get bored of it, the stuff is so flavorful!”. Fine, I got it.

Summer roasted vegetables

Adapted from What We Eat When We Eat Alone by Deborah Madison and Patrick McFarlin

Like I said, there is barely a recipe. The amounts, as well as types, of vegetables are certainly not written in stone, just make sure to use seasonal produce. I also found that finely chopped green celery leaves, in addition to you fresh herbs of choice or just on its own, deepens the collective flavor of the roasted vegetables even more. It’s like a belt to a cascading evening gown: with it, the dress, or rather a woman in it, looks even finer. Ah yes, and don’t be a scrooge with salt; it helps to open up the vegetable flavor.

1 medium eggplant, cut into cubes
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into ¼-inch rounds
½ head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 bell pepper, cut into strips or cubed
1 large yellow onion, peeled, cut into wedges with the root ends attached
1 handful of cherry tomatoes, stems removed
olive oil
chopped fresh herbs (one or a combination of a few) such as rosemary, oregano, parsley, thyme, chives or/and chopped green celery leaves

1. Lightly salt the eggplant and let sit in a colander to drain. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (400 degrees F). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. While the oven is warming up, wash and cut the rest of the vegetables. Put them in a bowl.

3. When the oven is ready, rinse the eggplant and roughly dry it off with a paper towel. Add the eggplant to the other vegetables. Add enough olive oil to moisten; season with salt and freshly ground pepper. (You can also add a pinch each of dried oregano and/or thyme, if desired.)

4. Spread the vegetables out onto a prepared baking sheet, making sure to give the vegetables enough space so that they don’t crowd each other. Put in the center of the oven and roast for 25 minutes, or until the vegetables take on color in places and become tender. Turn them a few times while cooking. Remove and let cool a little bit.

5. Transfer into a small bowl (or a food container); add fresh herbs and a splash of olive oil; mix. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Equally delicious warm or at room temperature.

Yield: 1 big meal for one, 2 light meals for two, or 4 side-dish servings