They can be a main, a side or a salad. Vegetables are an appetising source of enjoyment — the variety, the combinations, colours and flavours.
One of my favourite Kiwi chefs — Peter Gordon — authored a cookbook in 2006: Vegetables — The New Food Heroes. In it he recognises that vegetables are the unsung heroes of a meal. My tatty copy has bookmarks at various intervals including: Roast Baby Beetroot & Red Onions: Creamy Peas, Shallots & Mint; and Romano Peppers Stuffed with Tomatoes, Garlic & Basil – plus many more.
These three dishes are summer specialities that I have whipped up many a time adding my own twists. For example, a few cumin seeds with the beetroot and a little feta cheese with the peppers.
Of course, vegetables are deliciously good for you. As Peter says, “As part of a balanced diet, vegetables keep you in fine form and your mind equally athletic.”
And the American Institute of Cancer Research estimates that as many as 40 percent of all cancers in men and 60 percent in women are linked to diet. Studies have confirmed that populations with diets rich in vegetables and fruit run a lower risk of cancer.
CONFIT GARLIC & ROASTED TOMATO CIABATTA
I used a small loaf pan for cooking the garlic, but a small deep roasting pan would suffice. Use a light or pure olive oil, not extra virgin. I served this with grilled cutlets and asparagus. It also makes a great snack.
4 whole bulbs NZ garlic
6 sprigs thyme
flaky sea salt to taste
1 3/4 cups olive oil, approximately
10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 large slices ciabatta, toasted
Heat the fan oven to 150°C.
Slice the garlic bulbs horizontally across the tops so that the cloves are revealed. Place the bulbs snugly in a small heat-proof glass loaf pan. Add the thyme and salt. Pour the oil over the bulbs, until completely covered. Cook for an hour, until the cloves are very soft.
Place the cherry tomatoes cut-side up in a small roasting pan and sprinkle with salt. Place in the oven when the garlic has been cooking for 30 minutes.
Using tongs, lift the garlic bulbs from the oil onto a plate. Cool slightly. Squeeze the cloves from their skins onto the toasted ciabatta. Top with the tomatoes. Serves 4.
Tip: Reserve the garlic-infused oil in a covered jar in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Great for cooking or a dip for crusty bread.
MEXICAN CORN SALAD
The kernels can be blanched before use, but I prefer raw, crisp, sweet young kernels. Ensure limes are used not lemons. Delicious and easy.
1 small red onion, diced
3 fresh corn cobs
2 large tomatoes
10g pack coriander, finely chopped
1 long red chilli, seeded and diced (optional)
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons pale honey
Place the diced onion in a small bowl and cover with iced water. Stand for 10 minutes to crisp and for any strong flavours to dissipate.
Meanwhile, remove the husks and silk strands from the corn. Trim the ends. Stand a cob on the thick end and, using a sharp knife, run it down the cob behind the kernels to remove them. Repeat with the remaining cobs. There should be about 3 cups of kernels. Place in a large bowl.
Halve the tomatoes, squeeze out the seeds then dice the flesh. Add to the bowl with the coriander, chilli (if using) and the drained onion. Mix well.
Whisk the lime juice and honey until the honey is dissolved. Pour over the salad just before serving. Serves 4-6.
GRILLED CAPSICUM & CAPER SALAD
Char-grilling creates sweet, juicy and flavoursome capsicums. Char under a grill or on a barbecue. The pine nuts can be toasted in the oven after the grilling or in a heavy frying pan.
3 large red capsicums
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
3 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
dash smoked paprika
1/4 cup slice fresh herbs eg mint, flat leaf parsley, basil
Place the capsicums on a heavy baking tray. Preheat the grill to high. Grill the capsicums all over, turning once one side is slightly blackened.
Place in a plastic bag and cool. Remove the seeds and core. Peel off the skin. Cut the flesh into 3cm squares. Place on a serving dish.
Whisk the oil and vinegar until well combined. Drizzle over the capsicums. Top with the pine nuts and capers. Dust with the paprika then top with the herbs.
Great served with grills and barbecues. Serves 4.