This month in the Cottage Cooking Club, we had another wonderful selection of recipes to make and enjoy, all out of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s lovely cookbook – River Cottage VEG. I committed to three, but then, well, I still had other meals to cook, so I ended up making a few more…
I wanted to be sure to have fresh ingredients for my recipes, but with my crazy schedule, I can’t always get to my favorite roadside stand. What makes it so? It’s a family affair. There are usually kids working the counter, and always adults harvesting something. You can pick produce that was on the vine or in the field literally moments before.
I didn’t start out the month with vegetables from this stand, but I did find some fava beans at the market. I’ve never made anything with them, I’m not certain that I’ve ever eaten any, so I decided that I would try them out, making bruchetta with fava beans and asparagus. The vegetables are cooked separately, sautéed together, and then seasoned and goat cheese added – finally ending up on small toasted bread rounds.
I prepared these after I’d been out of town for a number of days, returning home, craving vegetables! So along with, I thought that the marinated zucchini with mozzarella sounded delicious. I had some fresh mint from the garden, and decided to try that combination with the grilled zucchini – something light and refreshing.
The zucchini are sliced thinly, and the grilled until they get browned around the edges and are softened. They marinate in a light dressing of garlic, olive oil and lemon, along with some fresh pepper and the mint. Just before serving, the mozzarella is added.
Around the same time, I found myself with day-old French bread, fresh tomatoes and garden basil on my hands – so what else? Panzanella! I’ve made other versions of this, though it’s not a typical recipe for me. This one sounded great with the addition of olives and cucumber.
My “official” recipes for July were supposed to be the tomato, thyme and goat cheese tart, pasta with raw tomatoes and eggplant parmigiana. Full disclosure – I didn’t end up making the tart. Forgot the puff pastry… and another full disclosure, I probably don’t need any puff pastry, so I didn’t get there. I did, however, make this before, but with mozzarella and basil. totally worth making again.
The pasta with raw tomatoes was quite good. Anything with capers always works for me. It’s very light and flavorful. I did have a couple of different types of tomatoes from the farm stand, so that added a bit of nice color. The tomatoes are peeled and seeded, straining the seeds to capture the maximum juice, which gets mixed with fresh basil, capers, a bit of garlic and olive oil then tossed with the pasta. You can add some cheese if you like, but I took the suggestion and chose to go without.
Finally, eggplant parmigiana. In this recipe, a simple tomato sauce simmers together, and gets layered with lightly fried eggplant slices and cheese. I decided to veer a bit away from the recipe with the sauce. It seemed like the flavors were intended to be delicate to let the eggplant shine through, but I still couldn’t resist adding some fresh oregano and basil – but I put in whole sprigs instead, that I could pull out after it simmered for a bit, imparting a subtle herby note. I almost always roast my eggplant, but decided to try the frying method in the book. But with my first batch, I started worrying about the oil content – so I combined methods – brushing each slice of eggplant with oil, then letting it cook in the pan until slightly browned and softened. This reduced the amount of oil that was absorbed by the eggplant, and it turned out quite well once I got the hang of it. All of this gets layered with parmesan and buffalo mozzarella and then baked until it’s bubbly and browned on top.
As it turned out, all of the dishes were quite good. Maybe because I made it most recently, I’d say that the eggplant was my favorite. Fava beans… well, that dish was good, but I am guessing that they were not the early fresh beans that were called for. But very fun to try. The zucchini was delicious as well, and quite beautiful. I also liked the pasta, though I’m not sure that all of the straining and steps were worth the effort (who minds a few tomato seeds?), but super light and tasty. I’m not sure when I’ll make the panzanella again, but it was quite delectable as well. This ended up being (not at all surprisingly) a wonderful group of dishes to make – perfectly seasonal, and perfectly delightful.
If you’d like to see what others in the Cottage Cooking Club made this month, you can find their posts here.