Doeden: Garden's bounty stacks up well in baked dishFor Midwesterners who love to eat food fresh from the garden, this is the best time of year. Local gardens are teaming with bright heavy tomatoes, slender green beans, colossal cabbages, a variety of peppers, zucchini almost as long as my arms – all fresh and full of flavor.
For Midwesterners who love to eat food fresh from the garden, this is the best time of year. Local gardens are teaming with bright heavy tomatoes, slender green beans, colossal cabbages, a variety of peppers, zucchini almost as long as my arms – all fresh and full of flavor.
I am getting a few tomatoes and some gorgeous Hungarian and Bulgarian peppers from my own garden, but other than herbs, that’s all I can get to grow. I rely on the expert growers selling their harvest at farmers markets and friends who have very green thumbs and are willing to share.
After a visit to a local garden that produced some blue ribbon cabbage at the county fair this year, my car was loaded with edible treasures harvested by hand. I couldn’t wait to get home to start eating.
I remembered reading in “Homegrown Pure and Simple” about an interesting method for cooking vegetables. Author Michel Nischan suggests layering thinly sliced root vegetables in a shallow pan, covering that with another pan of the same size and then wrapping it all up in aluminum foil for a long bake. I decided to give it a try.
Since I was cooking just for two, I pulled four gratin dishes from my kitchen drawer, old restaurant ware I found in an antique shop. They were shallow and just the right size to pile up some potatoes, carrots, onion, green beans and cabbage, all sliced very thin and all very fresh. Salt and pepper were the only seasonings I used. A little olive oil coated the pans to prevent potatoes from sticking.
The two dishes that were filled with vegetables each got covered with the two remaining dishes turned upside down. I was reminded of my days as a Girl Scout wrapping vegetables to cook over a campfire, as I wrapped the baking dishes up tight with aluminum foil and put both bundles in the oven. After a half-hour, I used oven mitts to turn the foil packages and let them bake for another 30 minutes.
Once out of the oven, I carefully unwrapped the packages that were delivering wonderful aroma to my kitchen. I removed the dish covering each Vegetable Stack. I could have served them right in the darling gratin dishes, but decided to follow Nischan’s instructions for removing the stack. I placed a plate upside-down over the top of each stack and turned it over, releasing the layers of tender vegetables. A drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar and they were ready to serve.
Of course, if you’re baking the stack in a jelly-roll pan, you’ll need to turn the baked vegetables out onto a large cutting board, just as if you were turning a sheet cake out of the pan.
There are at least a few things to love about this dish. For one thing, you really don’t even need a recipe. Use whatever vegetables you have coming from your garden (or in my case, a friend’s garden) or whatever strikes your fancy at the farmers market. It doesn’t matter if you’re cooking for your family, cooking for a crowd or making a meal for just one or two – choose shallow baking pans or dishes that suit your needs. Season the Vegetable Stack as you wish, but when you are using garden-fresh vegetables, you’ll discover salt and pepper are perfect.
’Tis the season to eat, drink and make merry with the bountiful harvest – stacked.
Hungry for more?
• On Sue’s blog, meet the gardener with the blue-ribbon cabbage and get a recipe for Greek-Style Vegetables. Go to sdoeden.areavoices.com.
• You can email Sue at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sue Doeden is a food writer and photographer from Bemidji, Minn., and a former Fargo resident. Her columns are published in 10 Forum Communications newspapers. Readers can reach Doeden at email@example.com