Last night I watched the sun go down as I grilled our dinner outdoors, wearing a jacket and gloves for the first time since the spring. The fall is coming and with it more darkness in our lives. I've been thinking about why it is we don’t look forward to the darkness in winter as much as we do the light of summer, why it is that darkness is the thing we learn to fear as kids, don’t want to hold inside as adults. I certainly love a sunny summer day as much as the next person, but the truth is I find darkness instructive. It’s in the darkness of night that we can take the time to listen to the quiet, to warm ourselves by a fire or read an enlightening novel. In the darkness, we rest, pausing to reflect on the day gone by before sleep takes us to new places. It’s when darkness lurks within that we challenge ourselves to find out what’s the matter, what’s wrong. It’s only by facing the darkness, with all its glory, that we can feel the warmth of the light within.
I don’t mean to sound glum. Yes, I am going through some heavy stuff right now, too personal to write about on these pages, too present not to acknowledge. Gathering Flavors is as much about connecting with those of you on the other side of the screen as it is about bringing you delicious foods and recipes. It’s those connections that keep me going, that give me the joy in this process, that help me keep the balance of light with dark.
And although it is getting cooler, and darker, this is a great time of year to be eating, with freshly harvested fruits and vegetables in delightful abundance. Thanks to the bounty of tomatoes coming home with our farm share over the past several weeks, we now have a freezer full of sauces and whole tomatoes―they will add a bit of summer to winter ahead. These HarvestVegetable Stacks― club sandwiches with cornmeal and parmesan encrusted roasted tomatoes in place of bread―are meant to be eaten right now. Roasting the tomatoes brings out their natural sweetness, while the parmesan and cornmeal crust adds a crispy texture. I layered delicate yellow beans in between the tomatoes―I like the contrast of the flavors and textures―but you can use any of your favorite vegetables between the tomatoes. You can even add a slice of fresh mozzarella cheese, smoked bacon or a poached egg to create a heartier dish. Meant to be eaten with a fork and accompanied by a flavorful glass of wine, this dish is the perfect way to start an early fall dinner.
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.
HARVEST VEGETABLE STACKS
Yield: 4 Servings
- 2 large cookies sheets with raised sides
- parchment paper
- paper towels
- 4 large, firm tomatoes, rinsed, trimmed and cut into thick slices
- ½ pound green or yellow beans, rinsed and trimmed
- 1 large egg
- ⅛ teaspoon harissa*
- ¼ cup stone ground cornmeal or fresh bread crumbs
- ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Olive oil
- Fresh oregano leaves
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Place a few pieces of paper towels on a clean work surface. Place the tomato slices on the paper towels and cover them with another layer of paper towels. Allow the tomatoes to sit for a few minutes while you continue with the recipe. The paper towels will absorb excess tomato juices.
- Place the trimmed beans on one of the prepared cookie sheets. Set aside.
- Place the egg, harissa, some salt and freshly ground black pepper in a small bowl. Beat to combine.
- Place the cornmeal or fresh bread crumbs in small bowl. Add the freshly grated Parmesan, some salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss to combine.
- Dip one tomato slice into the egg mixture, then into the cornmeal mixture, turning once to coat each side. Place on the prepared cookie sheet. Repeat until you have all the tomato slices coated.
- Place the prepared tomatoes and green beans in the preheated oven. Roast until ready―the green beans will have browned ends and look tender―about 5 to 10 minutes; the tomatoes will be golden with the Parmesan bubbling―about 15 to 20 minutes.
- When they are done, remove the vegetables from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
- To assemble, set out 4 small serving plates. Using tongs or a spatula, layer the tomatoes and the beans on top of one another, dividing the ingredients evenly. Sprinkle with a bit more salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with fresh oregano leaves.
- Serve and enjoy.
- It is important to use only firm tomatoes in order for them to keep their shape during the roasting process. Green tomatoes work well with this recipe.
- Harissa is a hot red pepper paste commonly used in North African cooking. If you prefer a milder dish, leave it out.
- This dish is great as a light appetizer or side dish. Consider serving it with grilled sausages or chicken, Brown Rice Pilaf, Fragrant Onion Rolls, a Market Morning Salad, or Savory Parmesan Scones.