Friday, January 15, 2010

Vegetable Melange: savor the disorder, love the variety

By Helen Klein

When it comes to cooking fall vegetables, two of my favorite approaches are sautéing and roasting.

Both methods maximize the earthy flavors inherent in autumn produce, leading to a finished dish that not only is appealing to the palate, but also tantalizes the appetite well in advance of dinner, thanks to the fragrances wafting lazily from the kitchen.

Combining the two methods, then, should be doubly flavorful, bringing the best of both techniques to bear on one dish.

At least, that was how my thinking went, as I set about utilizing some of the bounty in my crisper for a Saturday evening family dinner.

To enhance the nutritional value and substance of the dish, I added beans, whose creamy texture and mild, nutty taste are an ideal foil for the sweetness of roasted squash and cauliflower.

For another dimension, I sautéd onions and garlic over high heat, watching carefully till their sugars had caramelized, then added chopped kale, continuing to sauté till the kale was limp, then stewing the mixture in a little vegetable stock, before adding in the squash and cauliflower.

The final touches, to augment the combination’s richness and depth, were a handful of chopped walnuts and a splash of port wine, cooked until the alcohol had evaporated.

The latter effectively bound all the ingredients together, resulting in a melange that was as appealing as a side dish with a simple grilled steak or chicken cutlet, but that also could function as a vegetarian main dish.

Vegetable Melange

1 butternut or acorn squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1-1½ cups cauliflower florets
Olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
6 kale leaves, spines removed, and coarsely chopped
1 cup cooked beans (I used a mix of black beans and navy beans)
1 cup vegetable stock
½ cup walnuts, chopped
¼ cup port wine
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450°F.Lightly coat a large baking dish with cooking oil. Add squash and cauliflower, and salt and pepper to taste, and coat lightly with additional oil. Cover the dish with tin foil and roast for 20 minutes. Check for tenderness, roasting for another 10 to 20 minutes, as needed.

In a large nonstick sauté pan, heat 2 Tbl. olive oil, or more if necessary. Add onion and salt, and sauté over medium-high heat, till onion is golden and translucent. Add garlic, and continue to sauté, watching carefully to avoid burning. If too much liquid evaporates, add a couple of tablespoons of water.

When garlic has begun to turn golden, add the chopped kale and continue to sauté, another five minutes or so. Then, pour in the stock, adding more if necessary, and stew until the kale is tender.

When the squash and cauliflower are cooked, add to sauté pan, along with beans, walnuts and port, and continue cooking till alcohol has thoroughly evaporated.

Adjust flavorings.

Serves six.


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