22 September 2009

Trust Your Ingredients

I have a standard demurral when someone compliments my cooking: “You can’t go wrong with fresh vegetables."

One thing about the 100- mile diet is that you're limiting your ingredients with which to cook. You can’t add a dash of Tabasco to this or layer mustard on that. When I’m sauteing up veggies, I could add all the spices in my cabinet – because I have made spices an exception – but I find myself doing that less and less.

My ingredients are fresh and high quality. If an eggplant didn’t come from my own garden, it came from Thomas – our CSA farmer – or from one of the farmers I see every week at the market. To me, that means more care in planting, growing, and harvesting. Why not let them take center stage?

And yet, I still have a hard time believing it will work. Take my tomato-eggplant gratin. I started with a recipe from Alice Waters (there’s a woman who trusts her ingredients) and popped it in the oven. I was working at my computer in the next room when the timer went off – a reminder to remove the foil cover for the final minutes of baking. I walked in the kitchen and thought, Mmmm... what smells so good?

Sounds dumb, but I really did do a double take. Of course, it was the gratin cooking in my oven. Tasted just as good as it smelled too.

Tomato-Eggplant Gratin
from Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters

Saute 3 cloves garlic and 3 sweet onions in olive oil/butter mix until soft
Spread on the bottom of a lasagne pan
Peel and slice an eggplant into 1/4 inch rounds
Arrange in a layer on top of the onions
Slice a tomato for the next layer
(Waters says eggplant and tomato again, but I had a surplus of summer squash so...)
Slice a summer squash for the next layer
Slice a tomato for the top layer
Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil
Cover with foil
Bake at 400 for 30 minutes covered, 15 more minutes uncovered.

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