09 August 2009

somewhat accidentally

This recipe has entered our household somewhat accidentally.

A few years ago, while preparing for our summer party, I realized I had much more zucchini and eggplants than I would have needed. Mostly, this was due to the fact that august is the month of the dreaded zucchini deluge, with all neighbours bringing some of them as a (only moderately welcome) gift.

But, you know, in the best sense of making lemonade out of life's lemons, I roasted them, doused them in balsamic and put them onto the summer party's buffet. It was an instant hit and has been repeated every year since.

As we are usually running out of these antipasti before 10pm on our summer party, this year we made an extra large batch of them. Which led my dear aunt to comment on the inevitable leftovers the next morning: "Oh my, look at this, that's almost two pounds of leftovers! What a shame..."

At which I only smiled wryly, saying: "Well, they ate twenty-two out of twenty-four pounds. I think that's pretty spot-on."

We serve really big bowls at our summer party, did I mention that?

Anyway, this is a great way of offering vegetables in a different way and can be varied endlessly to accommodate season and tastes. I've already added squash, chanterelles and oyster mushrooms to the mix, and they all turned out pretty great.

And in the rare case you do get leftovers - they keep perfectly for quite a few days.

grilled vegetables, italian style
(serves eight as a side, images show... a manifold batch)

two medium zucchini
one medium eggplant
four red and / or yellow peppers
two red onions
four cloves of garlic

one sprig each of sage, rosemary, thyme
two teaspoons salt
pepper or some peperonici
200 ml balsamic vinegar
400 ml mild olive oil
1 tablespoon honey

On the day before serving, clean the vegetables and peel the garlic and the onions.

Cut the eggplant and the zucchini into slices about as thick as a finger. Peel and quarter the onions. Arrange them on a baking tray lined with paper and put them under the very hot grill - without any seasoning or oil - until they are dark brown, almost charred, on top.
Charring and browning are important for the taste of the dish - actually cooking the vegetables not so much. If you manage to get them slightly charred while they still have a bite to them - you rock!

To save space, zucchini and eggplant slices can overlap like slates, as long as each slice will have a chance to cook and brown.

Meanwhile, clean the peppers and quarter. Arrange on a baking tray skin-side up, and grill until the skins show black blisters.

[optional] To peel the peppers, cover them hot out of the oven with a wet kitchen towel and leave to cool a little. After that, the skin should come off easily.
As I have come to learn, this really is entirely optional. Usually, I made the effort and peeled all of the peppers. Last year, though, I had another kind of peppers that didn't want to separate from theirs skins try as I may. So I chucked them into the bowl, charred skins and all. Nobody complained, nobody left pepper skins on they plates. So I figured - why bother?

Combine the warm vegetables in a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Toss lightly until all is covered and leave to marinate for a few hours, best over night.

Toss again before serving, correct seasoning if necessary.

Serve with crusty white bread as a starter, or with grilled meat as a cold side.

Covered with olive oil, leftovers keep in the fridge for at least a week.

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