Summers are pretty nasty in the D.C. metro area. The city, which used to include Arlington where I live, was after all built on a swamp. Nice thinking, founding fathers. There are many saving graces, however, and one of them is the plethora of farmers markets. You can find one almost any day of the week in the Summer. We visited our local Farmers Market on Columbia Pike this morning, and it was heaven. We came back with lots of loot.
What does one do with so much bounty? Well, I take inspiration from one of my favorite Persian dishes, Yatimcheh. Yatimcheh is basically a Persian version of caponata. Think, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, onions and celery roasted at very high heat with lots of garlic and herbs. This method works very well for lots of vegetables, however, and that’s exactly what I did today.
The vegetables I came home with included:
- a few varieties of sweet peppers
- a few varieties of eggplant
- a few different varieties of summer squash
Here’s what I did.
First, you want to get the oven nice and hot. Preheat it to 500 degrees F. And get out a nice big pot that can go in the oven. I like to use my giant 6-qt Le Creuset.
Next, wash the veggies really good and chop them. You’re going to want to chop them coarsely. Nice big chunks will take the high heat best, and they will provide you with the best texture.
I actually like to chop the vegetables in no particular order. First a squash, then an eggplant, then a tomato and so on, layering them in the pot as I chop them. That just means I don’t really need to mix them up later after they’re in the pot.
You definitely want to make sure the veggies are good and mixed in the pot, so they cook more evenly and the flavors meld together better. Plus, look at how pretty they are…
Now that you have the veggies in a pot, you need some herbs and spices. First the herbs. I use fresh bay leaves and thyme. Lots of it. Oh, and of course garlic. Lots of it also. Just peel the cloves and throw them in whole.
If you dare, use a whole head. You won’t be disappointment. If you plan on eating this for lunch all week, at work, spare your coworkers and stick to about half a small head of garlic. As for the bay leaves and thyme, use as much as you prefer. I prefer lots. About 5-10 bay leaves and several sprigs of thyme. I throw them in whole as well and pick them out after they come out of the oven.
Of course, you also need salt.
I used about 2 tsp of salt for the entire pot, but I love salt. And I have low blood pressure, so I can enjoy it. Use as much as you like. And while we’re talking about preferences, if you prefer pepper (and I do), add some to taste. I put about 2 tsp of black pepper. Like I said, I love pepper.
Now, here’s what you must do. Add some olive oil. For a 6-qt pot filled with veggies, I used 1/3 cup of olive oil.
It really is necessary. Without it, the vegetables simply won’t caramelize the way you want them to. It also adds a depth of flavor that can’t be matched. Trust me on this. If you are fat-phobic as I am, do it anyways. The vegetables are so low calorie and you are using only 1/3 cup of oil for several servings. It will not hurt you, and you’ll love the way it tastes.
Finally, I hope that oven is now a lovely 500 degrees Fahrenheit, because it is time to put your vegetables in the oven.
And 60 minutes later, you get this pot of goodness.
If you aren’t yet convinced that you must do this immediately, I present you with a close-up.
Look at that caramelization. Those colors. Those textures. This makes an excellent side dish. Serve with some rice and maybe a little roasted chicken, or tofurky if you’re a vegetarian like me.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some eating to do.