by Betty Thompson
Photo by Cheryle Easter
BUTTERED BEANS, buttered new potatoes, buttered carrots, buttered broccoli, buttered butter. I confess that is my great love on summer vegetables. My husband says I only eat vegetables as a vehicle for butter. It's not entirely true.
What I don't like are fresh prime vegetables cooked to death in sauces that mask the choice, fresh flavor and texture. I save those recipes for vegetables that are over the hill or for winter, when vegetables are not in prime condition.
There is taste beyond butter and that is a flavorful dressing which actually sticks to the vegetables. We are not talking about the tricky, painstaking construction of such sauces as hollandaise, but rather some delectable sauces whipped up in an instant. Even a novice can feel the pleasure of success, so dress up your favorite summer vegetables with a delicious sauce.
Hot weather, vegetables in full production and light appetites call for easy, casual, leisure meals. Vegetables can be cooked well ahead and served cold or grilled, or steamed to perfection at the last minute. Cook enough for two meals, one hot and one cold. Sauces are served separately.
Choose the quick version of Javanese sweet-hot peanut sauce or a tart red wine herb vinaigrette or cool avocado cream with a bite of garlic and chili powder or zesty Creole sauce with mustard and fiery cayenne. Why not have a vegetable party with mountains of steamed and grilled vegetables and try all the sauces for one meal. Include some raw vegetables such as sliced cucumbers, tomato wedges, radishes and green pepper strips.
Tuck in a few hard-boiled egg wedges, chunks of tuna or shredded chicken or a platter of assorted cheeses or cold cuts, or grill your favorite meats on the barbecue. The sauces taste great with the meat too.
Serve with crusty bread and a refreshing easy finish of assorted melon wedges.
Suggestions are given after each sauce for vegetables to accompany. Feel free to make substitutions. The dressings are reasonably compatible with any of the vegetables.
A few notes on cooking the vegetables:
When boiling vegetables such as green beans and broccoli, plunge them into a large pot of boiling water much the same as pasta, cook just minutes until tender crisp, drain and serve immediately. Or, if serving cold, drain and rinse in ice water to stop the cooking and set the color. The large pot of water assures quick cooking time. All cabbage-type vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower and kohlrabi) should be cooked without a lid.
When grilling vegetables, potatoes and carrots should be steamed or boiled tender crisp first. For onions, choose fairly flat ones, do not cut off root or stem end, peel only outer papery skin and cut in half horizontally.
For eggplant, cut a large one vertically in about eight wedges, make diagonal slashes in the flesh, sprinkle liberally with salt and let stand 30 minutes, then firmly press out moisture. Split small summer squash in half lengthwise.
Brush vegetables lightly with olive oil and grill. Grill peppers whole until scorched, place in a paper sack and when cool enough to handle, rub off charred skin, quarter and remove seeds. Vegetables can be done outside on the barbecue or inside under the broiler.
A pale green creamy dressing with a bite of fresh garlic and chili powder is a perfect match for summer vegetables and grilled fish.
1 large avocado, peeled pitted and sliced
1/2 small onion
1 clove garlic
4 sprigs cilantro
3/4 cup evaporated milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
In a food processor blend avocado, onion, garlic and cilantro until smooth. Add milk and seasonings and process until well blended.
Serve with steamed carrots, potatoes, cauliflower, zucchini, roasted peppers, grilled fish or meat.
This fast version uses garlic powder and onion flakes with fresh lemon juice. Don't cheat and omit the anchovy paste. Buy it in a small tube. It keeps well for future use. Serve this with cooked and raw vegetables.
3 tablespoons peanut butter, smooth or chunky
1/2 cup water
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried onion flakes
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon chili paste or flaked red chili
In a small pan heat peanut butter and water until mixed. Add rest of ingredients. Thin with enough water for pouring consistency. Taste and adjust soy, lemon and chili.
Serve with steamed potatoes, spinach, carrots, green beans, sliced raw cucumber, shredded cabbage, hard cooked eggs, cubes of fried or grilled tofu.
A food processor makes this piquant dressing a cinch to make. The tart red wine vinegar and seasonings are folded into a smooth refreshing yogurt base making a delicious dressing for vegetables hot off the grill or cold salads.
1/4 cup parsley
1/4 cup basil leaves (2 tablespoons dried)
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup onion
2 tablespoons green pepper
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup yogurt
Process all except yogurt in a blender until smooth. Remove and stir in yogurt.
Serve with grilled or broiled eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, mixed summer squash, steamed baby beets and greens, tossed green salad, tuna, grilled beef, lamb.
Wake up the taste buds with a spicy red sauce of mustard, tarragon vinegar and cayenne pepper. A little goes a long way.
4 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon coarse grained mustard
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons olive oil
Variation: add 4 tablespoons tomato sauce
Serve with grilled onions, steamed potatoes carrots, broccoli, grilled meat.
Betty Thompson has taught cooking classes locally since 1974.