Certainly many of you will know that I am a fanatic list maker. It helps me stay organized in my busy routine. However, I do break free from the list making, actually you might be surprised to hear, that I do this on a regular basis. This generally happens when I visit my Farmer's Market. My list somehow is forgotten and so is everything on it. I am driven by the colors, aromas and the variety of fruit and vegetables. In a trance I walk around each stall, picking at the fruit or vegetables, smelling it's ripeness and sometimes tasting samples and testing the juiciness, tanginess and crunchiness.
I imagine all the things I could make with the fresh raspberries I am holding in my hand or if I buy double the amount of fresh baby spinach I could make a salad and a pasta. So, everything wanders into my big blue Ikea bag. Hey, it's the biggest carry bag I can find and perfect for shopping at the Farmer's Market. As a matter of fact it's become my trademark at the Farmer's Market.
Brimming to the rim, I return home, my bag filled with gorgeous, fresh, organic produce. I feel satisfied with myself as I look at all the items laid out on my counter top. My mind is fuming with all the ideas of what to make for dinner. I just cannot decide on anything particular - fennel, zucchini, asparagus? What should it be? The thing is, as most of the produce is organic they need to be used up fast. Well if I was particularly organized that week I probably would have fresh puff pastry in my refrigerator .... the rest is easy.
To make sure all the flavors of each vegetable comes out to it's max, I gently and slowly caramelize them on a low heat. As the juices come together to produce a wonderful bouquet of aromas, I just know this is going to be worth every bite.
In honor of the UK national vegetarian week, which is from 21st to 27th May, Abby of Eat the Right Stuff is celebrating with a one off event - Vegetables Beautiful Vegetables. I am dedicating this to all my favorite farmers at the Weimar Farmer's Market, who provide me with the most wonderful selection of produce all year round.
You are all invited to my Big Birthday Bang.
When: June 6th
Hope to see you there!
1 zucchini - sliced
1 fennel bulb - sliced
bunch of grape tomatoes - cut into quarters
1 large red bell pepper - cut in half
1 large red onion
small bunch of thyme - finely chopped
handful of pine nuts - roasted
200g puff pastry
1 teaspoon honey
120g goat cheese
salt and pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.
Lightly grease a baking tray with some olive oil and place the pepper halves on the tray. Roast for approx. 20 minutes or until the skins char and bubbles build up underneath the skin. Take out of the oven and cover with a tea towel to allow them to sweat for a few minutes. Once slightly cooled, peel the skin and slice the peppers.
In a greased tart form or another baking tray spread the puff pastry out. Prick the base of the puff pastry several times. Line with baking paper, place some dried beans, chickpeas or pie weights and blind bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the crust is golden brown.
In a large pan, heat some olive oil. Add all of the vegetables and allow them to be coated in the oil. On a low heat sauté them gently until all the water has evaporated and browning begins. Add the honey and lower the heat. Carry on sauteing them gently until the honey and the vegetables have caramelized and released all of their flavors. Make sure you stir frequently so that the vegetables to not stick to the bottom of the pan. This normally takes 15 to 20 minutes. Add thyme, and salt and pepper to taste.
Spread the wonderfully aromatic vegetables onto the warm puff pasty, sprinkle with the roasted pine nuts and break off bits from the goat cheese and place on the vegetables. Turn on the grill function of your oven and bake until the cheese just starts to brown and the vegetables have warmed through.
Tips & Tricks
- When caramelizing vegetables, what's happening is the heat is literally dehydrating the water in the vegetables. When enough water has evaporated from the vegetables the temperature of the sugars within them rises. Once they are heated past a certain temperature, they start to brown, which is a result of the sugar breaking down and recombining into more than 100 different ingredients. It is this variety that gives caramelized vegetables their complexity of flavor.
- You can caramelize any amount of vegetables this way. Make sure that once their water has evaporated, the pan is not too crowded, and don't be stingy on the oil.
- A nonstick, heavy and sturdy pan makes the process much easier, because the vegetables in contact with the cooking surface will tend to stick as their sugars are heated, and what gets stuck to the pan can burn.
- Most sturdy vegetables with high sugar content can be caramelized in this manner. Vegetables that don't caramelize are those that contain too much water, like celery.
- Do not use whole butter to caramelize vegetables, because the dairy solids in butter tend to burn. Clarified butter will work fine.
Vegetables beautiful vegetables! This is an exceptional way to enjoy a multitude of vegetables in one dish. By caramelizing them gently and releasing their sugars the incredible palate of flavors harmonize to create a smooth and rich taste. We savored each bite with relish. The combination of the piquant cheese, crunchy nuts and flaky pastry added a wonderful distinct finesse.
Daily Tiffin latest: This week I introduce my fantastic baker to our readers in Meet My Baker.
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