Sunday, July 8, 2012

Summer Vegetable Ragout

“I’d like to sup, with my baby tonight
Refill the cup with my baby tonight
                                But I ain’t up to my baby tonight,
                                ‘Cause it’s too darn hot.”*

Summer Vegetable Ragout

Summer Vegetable Ragout with Striped Bass

Certain words fall into favor when describing food. For instance, the word “roast”  (or “roasted”) made a big comeback over the years (replacing the blander descriptive, “baked”) because it conveys the deep, caramelized flavors you achieve at a higher temperature. (Curiously, the oven temperature for roast chicken in Fannie Farmer is a mere 325 degrees, less than the temperature for baking a cake). Ragout is one of those words, too. On a menu or in a recipe the word evokes something a bit more than the word “stew” does, but they are essentially the same thing.

While certain vegetables are used in this recipe, you can substitute other combinations as they become seasonally available. Select a few vegetables, an herb or two and cook them with care. The juices of the vegetables blend with the cooking water to make a flavorful broth. Just remember to simmer the vegetables long enough to be tender, but not mushy.  It’s a simple technique that captures the vibrant flavors of the summer, just the style of no-brainer cooking you need when it’s too darn hot.

Fish, beef, pork, and chicken all pair well with a ragout like this. Paired with a starch (quinoa, Israeli couscous, faro, rice, etc) the ragout can be a meal in itself.

Summer Vegetable Ragout:
For three servings**

3 ears of corn
1 cup green beans, sliced into ½” pieces
1/3 cup peas
10 to 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
salt and ground black pepper
olive oil and water, for cooking
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, optional

1. Husk the corn. Cut the kernels off the cob and set aside.
2. Place a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, swirl in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the onion and sweat the onions for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the remaining vegetables; season with salt and pepper. Add about ½ cup water to the pan. Shred the basil leaves and stir them into the vegetables. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for 10 to 12 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Before serving the ragout, Swirl in an additional tablespoon of olive oil and the butter into the ragout before serving.
Summer Vegetable Ragout with Grilled Chicken

* Too Darn Hot, words and music Cole Porter
** sorry that these recipes are centered around three servings but that’s the number I’m feeding right now.
***anymore footnotes and this will start looking like something by David Foster Wallace.

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