It’s a feast in itself, and everyone gets to choose their favorite veggies and sauce. Happy Days!
So, there was a break in the weather. It has rained here in Vermont for over three weeks, and everyone has seen the terrible consequences of that with flooding throughout our beautiful little state. There are still road closures, massive clean-ups, and yet more rain in the forecast. But, we had two days of dry weather, the farmers tried to get as much hay off the ground as possible, and we got to cut the grass!
We also got to grill outside before it started pouring again. Just.
It’s a delightful experience to come home from the farm stand or farmers market with a week’s worth of vegetables, a rainbow of fresh produce you will enjoy for days. Even more delightful if you find pink celery, lavender Napa cabbage, or a lovely chartreuse head of Romanesco.
When I have the time, I like to make things easy for myself and prep some of these vegetables ahead of for days in the week when I’m the busiest. When I plan to make grilled vegetables, I make a lot and tuck the bulk of them away to nibble on all week. They may become a simple side dish, the marinated toppings for a salad, a stuffing, the filling for a frittata, or a little extra in a wrap. One session at the hot grill, many little meals all week. You can do the same with simple steamed veggies as well, but it’s not as tasty, or fun.
Lovely to behold
When company’s coming, the first presentation of these charred beauties is a centerpiece on the table, a treat for the eyes as well as the palate. My oldest granddaughter was here for a few days with a friend, and I wanted them to know I appreciated all the work they were doing in my garden. So I took advantage of the two days of sunshine and grilled some veggies. It’s all about possibilities. Mix things up, make them beautiful, give yourself a pat on the back when you see the smiles. When you cook for someone else, it is a gift. You are telling them they are special.
The highlight of my centerpiece this week was a gorgeous head of Romanesco I found at the farmers market. This is one of those vegetables you’ll never find if you are looking for it; they appear before your eyes unexpectedly, so be prepared! A beautiful chartreuse, this cousin of both broccoli and cauliflower is as versatile as both, yet quite unique. The florets grow in a spiral fashion rather than in separate trees, and looks like nothing else on the planet! Low in calories, full of fiber and protein, it is a good source of iron and potassium, has about 7 carbs a cup, four grams of fiber, and 40 calories. You can substitute Romanesco for any recipe calling for cauliflower or broccoli.
A sauce for everyone!
I’ve got two sauces here, so everyone can be pleased; a charred scallion sauce we all love, and a nut-free Romesco sauce, simply because I thought it might be fun word play, and it was quite a lovely pairing – Romanesco with Romesco Sauce. I make this Spanish treasure nut-free because of my granddaughter’s allergy, but if you like, some almonds or hazelnuts are always welcome in this sauce. You can use the traditional charred fresh tomatoes, but you can make this flavorful sauce all year long with sun-dried tomatoes and a bit of tomato paste.
Summer squash, red peppers, purple onions, radishes, new carrots, golden and red beets, and a bunch of garlic scapes filled the platter.
This is what I used recently, but choose a selection of whatever is best locally, light up the grill, and start creating.
Grilled Summer Vegetables with Two Dressings
For the vegetables:
- 1 head of Romanesco or cauliflower
- 2 (or 3) sweet red peppers
- Small bunch of broccolini
- Small bunch of garlic scapes
- 3 Summer squash
- 1 Zucchini
- 2 Purple onions
- Small bunch new carrots
- Few assorted baby beets
- Olive oil, salt, and pepper
For the Romesco:
- 1 grilled or roasted red pepper
- 3 or 4 sun-dried tomatoes, or two fresh charred tomatoes
- 1/3 cup olive oil, perhaps some more
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2-3 tbsp. sherry vinegar
- 1 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
- ½ cup cubed stale bread
For the scallion dressing:
- 6 large scallions, charred
- 1 large head garlic, charred
- 3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. honey
- Zest and juice of 1 lime
- Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 6 tbsp. extra virgin oil
- 1/3 cup organic non-fat yoghurt, if you want it creamier
Prepare your grill with charcoal, or light your gas grill. If it is raining, you can do this inside in a grill pan but you won’t get the smoky flavor. Once your charcoal is ready, push half to one side so you will have hot and warm zones. On a gas grill, light only the burners on one side. You want to be able to move the vegetables around so they brown but cook through.
Prep your vegetables: Slice and seed the peppers, slice summer squash and zucchini in half, slice the onions thickly, and cut the beets in half. No need to peel anything. Prep dressing ingredients as well: cut the roots off the scallions, and the top off the garlic. Spritz all the veggies with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Toss the dressing veggies on first. That way, you can make the dressing while the rest of the veggies cook. The scallions don’t take long to cook, and you’ll have to cook the garlic a little longer.
Put the whole Romanesco on the indirect side. This will take a more time to cook and you don’t want it to burn. Start the longer cooking veggies like the onions, beets, and carrots off on the hot side, and when brown on that first side, slip them over to indirect to finish cooking, Keep an eye on them. The broccolini, summer squash, scapes, and peppers cook quickly.
Once cooked, set everything aside and cover. I think these taste just as good room temperature as hot, so it’s a great make-ahead for a gathering.
To make the scallion dressing: Squeeze the pulp out of the garlic into a food processor and roughly chop the scallions and toss them in, along with the rest of the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste, then process again, and taste, correcting anything you think there needs to be more of, and this is definitely a personal decision. Add the yoghurt if you want it creamier.
To make the Romesco Sauce: Use one of the grilled peppers. Let it rest from the grill in a covered bowl for a few minutes, then peel off most of the charred skin. Combine all the rest of the ingredients in a food processor (or use a mortar and pestle), pulse to your desired consistency, and add olive oil at the end to your preference, as thin or thick as you like. If you are making this nut free, you can add a couple of radishes if you like for texture, and if not, slip in some almonds or hazelnuts.
Create a beautiful platter. Give each vegetable it’s special spot with a little flair, and add some chopped herbs or scallions and edible flowers if you want to dress it up even more.
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