Tag Archives: vegetables

Warm orzo salad with roasted vegetables

She turned to the sunlight
   And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
   “Winter is dead.”
~ A. A. Milne, When We Were Very Young

One of the pleasures of living in Wellington: walking down to Harbourside Market on any Sunday morning and leaving with a bounty of goodness for a reasonable price. I also like the fact that the vegetables are likely to stay fresh for almost twice as long as their supermarket equivalents!

Last Sunday, I exchanged $9 for a bag of garlic, a bag of lemons, an aubergine, capsicums, zucchinis, and a generous selection of big and little tomatoes… I was a happy woman.

I cooked this mostly by sight, taste and feel, and the oven door opened and shut more than I usually allow for in one session of cooking, but hey – dinner got done, nicely, and that is what matters.

    Warm orzo salad with roasted vegetables
    Ingredients:
    1 cup orzo
    ½ onion
    1 aubergine / eggplant (use your favourite vegetables – pumpkin could work well too?)
    1 zucchini
    1 capsicum
    6 or more small tomatoes
    4 sprigs asparagus
    1 tbsp demerara / brown sugar
    1 lemon
    Olive oil
    1 tbsp butter
    Salt
    Pepper
    Ground chilli
    Paprika
    Dried mint (or torn fresh mint, if you have it)
    Fresh herbs of your choice (optional)
    Method:
    Preheat the oven to 190°C. Line a flat baking tray with aluminium foil or baking paper, and lightly grease it.
    Peel and dice the onion, and set aside. Zest half a lemon, and set aside. Cut off the ends of the aubergine, then slice it into rings approximately 1cm thick, and halve those rings. If you have time, sprinkle them with salt and leave them to sweat for about 30 minutes – this will tenderise the flesh, reduce any bitterness and make it less likely to absorb too much cooking oil later (I admit I skipped this step on this occasion, as we were hungry). Vertically slice the zucchini into 4 strips. Cut the capsicum into 6 pieces. Place these vegetables with the tomatoes into a bowl, add in some olive oil and toss to coat well.
    Arrange the aubergine, zucchini and capsicum pieces in a single layer on the baking tray, and place in the oven (on the centre rack, if possible) for 10 minutes. Then remove the tray, flip the aubergine slices and bake for a further 10 minutes. Once the aubergine pieces look nicely golden, remove them from the oven and place on a dish. Flip the zucchini and capsicum slices, add in the tomatoes, and replace the tray in the oven. After 10 minutes, take out the zucchini and capsicum. Lower the oven temperature to 150°C and leave the tomatoes to bake to perfection.
    All of this may sound terribly confusing, but it basically comes down to this: when the vegetables tell me they are ready with golden faces, I take them out. Also, tomatoes don’t mind staying in the oven for longer if you lower the heat before too long.
    Meanwhile, place some water in a deep saucepan and bring to the boil. Shake in some salt and the orzo, and cook according to packet instructions. Remove the orzo when it is about a minute from being completely cooked (after approximately 7 minutes of cooking), and drain off the liquid.
    Over medium-high heat, heat the butter (or use olive oil if you prefer), add in half a teaspoon of chilli and paprika each, and a pinch of dried mint – rubbing the mint between your fingers as you go. When you can smell the onion and it begins to turn translucent, break the asparagus sprigs into thirds and add them in. Sauté the lot for 2-3 minutes. Throw in the drained orzo and lemon zest, add in a dribble of water, allow it to be absorbed before adding in a little more (kinda like how you cook risotto), and cook this way until the orzo is cooked through. Stir in the demerara sugar.
    Pour the orzo and vegetables into a large bowl, add salt and pepper to taste, squeeze in the juice of a lemon. Add in chopped fresh herbs, if using. Toss the lot until well combined. Rescue the tomatoes from the oven, which should now be looking juicy and ripe to burst. Arrange them like jewels on an orzo crown. Serve immediately.
    Yields 3-4 servings.

Harbourside Market – Corner of Cable Street & Barnett Street beside Te Papa, Wellington – Phone: 04 495 7895

Ratatouille

The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face.
~ William Makepeace Thackeray

A vegetable bouquet melting into a slurred rainbow…

This is my (modified) rendition of Molly Wizenberg’s ratatouille (included in her book “A Homemade Life”):

Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Cut an eggplant into circles, brush both sides of the eggplant circles with olive oil (use your hands if you are lazy) and arrange them in a single layer on a lined baking tray. Pop the tray into the oven and let the circles get tender and brown (but not as brown as some of mine! See below.) It should take approx. 20-30 minutes, depending on how thick your circles are. When they are done, let them cool slightly and cut into wedges (I just quarter each circle).

While the eggplant is cooking, cut your veges. Smash garlic cloves. Cut zucchinis into semi-circles. Chop tomatoes. Strip rosemary branches, save the leaves and toss the rest (if using fresh – I didn’t have any last night, so I used dried rosemary and some dried basil). Dice capsicums. Chop onions, if using (I didn’t have any last night, so I just added more tomatoes. Just go with the flow).

Set a deep saucepan on the stove, add a mini slosh of olive oil, and fry the zucchini semi-circles till lightly golden. Rescue and set aside. Add a little more oil into the pan if the pan is dry, then throw in the capsicum squares, onion (if using) and garlic, fry till the fragrance begins to cling to your clothes and the capsicum begins to sweat. Add the tomatoes, rosemary and any other herbs you are using. Salt and pepper it as you wish. Toss in a bay leaf for good measure. Stir, smell, watch the colours swirl… lower the heat, cover for five minutes. Add the eggplant and cooked zucchini. Cook on low heat for 10-15 minutes, until all the vegetables are nicely cooked.

There will be plenty to share, or to refrigerate and enjoy the next day (this is one dish that actually makes for amazing leftovers).

I like to make this when I have one or two people over for dinner, or when I’m alone. When alone, I tend to boil some pasta, poach an egg, stir in the ratatouille and eat standing by the window as the sun disappears behind the hills.

Dinner with Lamia!

To me, every hour of the day and night is an unspeakably perfect miracle.
~ Walt Whitman

Lamia and I had a super ‘girly’ night in tonight. I even enjoyed a cheesy chick flick where I knew what the ending would be within the first ten minutes of the movie… :-O

I waddled around my kitchen while Lamia composed this delicious meal… mmm! We had sweet, lightly spicy, succulent chicken… crunchy asparagus and peas and juicy cherry tomatoes… baked potato wedges with garlic, herbs and salt.

With her permission, here is the recipe (sans exact quantities, since she is a gifted cook who really cooks with her senses):

    Chicken:
    Marinade chicken breasts in balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dried herbs, pepper and let it sit in the fridge for a night.
    Fry them in a skillet with a dash of hot sauce and salt, until golden brown and crisp on the outside and tender inside (a fork stuck into the middle of the chicken pieces should yield clear juices).
    Vegetables:
    Heat a small amount of olive oil in a frying pan, and saute chopped onion and garlic until they are fragrant and lightly golden. Add in fresh pea pods and fry for 2-3 minutes. Add in capsicum strips and asparagus spears, and stir for a further 2-3 minutes, adjusting the heat as and when necessary. Add in the cherry tomatoes and remove the pan from the heat. Avoid over-cooking the vegetables so they stay crunchy and sweet.
    Potatoes:
    Wash and cut a few potatoes into wedges. Place them in a saucepan with enough cold water to cover the wedges, and bring to boil. Add in some salt. Once they are cooked, drain them and place them in a baking dish.
    Add enough olive oil to gently coat the wedges, some dried herbs and a few smashed unpeeled garlic cloves. Bake them on maximum heat until they turn golden brown (this is a tip I learned from Lamia today – yields perfect potato wedges which are crispy on the outside and soft inside – yum!)

For dessert, we had creamy Puhoi Valley berry yoghurt sprinkled with Valrhona chocolate bits – and a glass of Villa Maria sparkling sauvignon blanc. Smiles and pink faces all around (alright, admittedly the latter happened only to my face).

Ratatouille in the oven

I doubt that the imagination can be suppressed. If you truly eradicated it in a child, he would grow up to be an eggplant.
~ Ursula K. LeGuin

    Ingredients:
    1 red onion
    3 garlic cloves, peeled
    1 eggplant
    2 vine-ripened tomatoes
    1 zucchini
    3/4 red capsicum
    olive oil
    salt
    pepper
    2 sprigs fresh rosemary
    1 tsp dried thyme
    1 tsp dried marjoram
    Method:
    Preheat oven to 180°C.
    Slice the onion, garlic and vegetables. Put them all into a medium-sized baking dish (I used a 13″ oval one). Add in the herbs, some salt and pepper, drizzle olive oil over it and toss to combine. Cover the dish and bake it for 40 minutes.
    Take the lid off the dish and bake it for another 25 minutes, until the cooking juices have evaporated and the vegetables are nicely roasted.
    Cooking times may vary depending on your oven, the size of your baking dish and the amount of vegetables you use – so keep an eye on it!
    Remove the sprigs of herbs, and serve. I like mine with a poached egg on top!
    Yields 2 servings.