Fun With Vegetables
One of my cooking goals this year is to get better with vegetables. I do okay with simple veg dishes, but I need to learn a wider "vocabulary" of ingredients and flavor combinations.
We had a dinner here last night. I made an effort to go out of my comfort zone with the veg dishes and to pair them with fairly simple meat dishes.
The appetizer was a puree of roasted beet, roasted elephant garlic, chopped dates, a Serrano chili, and Greek yoghurt. Plenty of salt and coarse pepper, and a little vinegar too. For service, you stir in soft goat cheese, crushed nuts and some minced green onions. This was very popular.
The salad was salted and roasted cauliflower with pomegranate seeds, almonds, parsley, dressed with olive oil and a little vinegar. This didn't get much comment, it may have been rather bland.
I also made a bean salad that was blanched green beans, roasted strips of orange and yellow peppers, and parsley. The dressing was olive oil in which were very briefly cooked: sliced garlic, drained capers, cumin and coriander seeds. Then you add a lot of lemon zest, some lemon juice, crushed tarragon and crushed mint leaves, salt and pepper.
My friend brought an eggplant dish that uses a lot of white poppyseed. I've never heard of white poppyseed. He said it is popular in Indian cooking.
The meat dishes were pork belly (daughter's request) and Coq au Vin. After the chicken was browned, marinated in wine overnight, and stewed in the wine, I added some tendons and mushrooms stems to the wine cooking liquid and reduced it down by half, strained out the solids, thickened further with a little flour, and returned the chicken to the sauce to finish cooking. The pearl onions, mushrooms, and lardons were cooked and served separately. I like to keep those out of the sauce until service, as they get soggy. I chose to make Coq au Vin because my Indian friend doesn't eat beef and because it is a relatively inexpensive main course. Basically two chickens, two bottles of super-cheap red wine (Two Buck Chuck - which is actually $3/bottle now - works fine), a little bacon and a few pantry veggies, feeds twelve easily and looks reasonably showy. The chicken carcasses made stock which was used to cook a chicken-y rice, since something has to soak up all that sauce. I put beets into the cooking rice to make it a more interesting color.
For Christmas, I received the cookbook "Jerusalem" that is inspiring a lot of my recent meals. The veg dishes mentioned above come from that book, with a few changes.
What interesting vegetable dishes, and cookbooks, would you recommend, to expand the vocabulary of a "meat and potatoes" cook? I'm especially interested in combinations of sweet + savory, and in root vegetables.