The Bounty of Late August…

One of the great joys of late August in New England in the rich bounty of ripe vegetables and fruits at their peak conditions. If there is a tagline to this post, it would say, “how you cook it makes all the difference.”

I have two examples from tonight’s dinner. My wife wanted miso soup and sushi from our local Asian restaurant — and I was in the mood for cooking — so we agreed amicably to have two different dinners. I picked up her order at the restaurant and delivered it with some beer from the package store, so she was happy. I had a taste of the sushi, and my own bottle of beer, while I sat with her at an early supper.

Now, back to the main event. I had two perfect vegetables that were looking for the right recipe. One was a small, firm, glossy eggplant; the other was a container of baby Brussels Sprouts. In my experience there are many people who are not crazy about either of these. I believe I could convert a good many of these folks to enthusiastic fans with these two dishes:

  • Eggplant Confit
  • Roasted Baby Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Whole Grain Mustard

 

The Eggplant Confit recipe was new to me this week. I got it from the Food52 website. I found it to be clear, straightforward, accurate, and delicious.

It gave me a chance to use all my favorite ingredients: salted Sicilian anchovies, crisp garlic, lemon thyme from our herb garden, and lots of Portuguese olive oil.

When the dish was finished and at room temperature, I marveled at the silky texture and rich flavor.

By contrast, the other recipe was one I had played with off and on over the last 8-10 years. The origin of this dish was a dinner we had in Portmouth, NH, at the restaurant Cava. A couple of months later, when our son was home and cooking dinner for our friends and us, he made a spectacular version of it, just from our oral description of it.

The trigger for me this week was a container of baby Brussels Sprouts I saw at Westward Orchards (a farm 1/2 mile away) when I stopped yesterday to get more peaches for the cobbler my wife wanted to make for our family dinner.

All I had to do was to preheat the oven to 500° F., dice some pancetta from a frozen log of it in the freezer, drizzle on some oil (I had plenty in the baking dish from the eggplant confit), and watch it carefully so it didn’t burn in the hot oven.

In addition I needed to put make the sauce, which is what brings all the flavors together in an exciting way. The only two ingredients for that are a good, whole-grain Dijon mustard, and a couple of tablespoons of sour cream. Mix them together, smear across the plate, and place the roasted sprouts and pancetta on top.

They complemented the soft, delicate texture and flavor of the eggplant and its tasty partner, the anchovy.

Normally, I would have obsessed about which wine to serve with this combo. However, as an appetizer I had blistered several Padron Peppers from our garden. Most were mild, but one was real hot. Fortunately, I had decided to save some of my Jamaican Red Stripe beer to drink with it. That also went well with the main course and the beer mustard dressing.

Finally, I also had an open bottle of a 2007 Black Slate, a Spanish wine favorite of Grenache and Carignan grapes. Very good as well.

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