Posts Tagged ‘Food’

Maybe if she had a (faux) leather jacket?

July 4th, 2010

It isn’t quite the season yet, the farmer’s market is tomorrow, and the food co-op has been a total failure. The theme of tonight’s dinner is “Corn and Tomatoes”, so you can see my problem. When these things happen, it’s time to switch recipes.

Deborah Madison has never struck me as particularly  edgy. Despite her badass pose on the cover of Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone–all wooden spoon at port-arms, ready to kick herbivorous ass and inspire Italian boys to odd Oedipal stirrings, I’m not sure it’s possible to be an edgy vegetarian chef. There are edgy vegetarians of course–Euoplocephalus, mad cows, the occasional hippopotamus rising up from the river mud with greens still stuck between his teeth– but for chefs, the edge really needs to be drawing blood. Nobody flinches when you gut a squash.

Still, edgy or not, Madison knows her veggies and her farmer’s market cookbook had the chilled SunGold soup recipe I was going to make before I discovered a severe dearth of SunGolds in my locality. A couple of pages further in though is a “Lazy Taxi Tomato and Corn Stew” and that suits both my mood and the best ingredients available two hours before dinner is scheduled to be served. So out of the market basket, and into the pot.

The recipe calls for peeling the four Taxis, which is less of a pain than it sounds. Peeled tomatoes bear an uncomfortable resemblance to burn victims; crushing them in my bare hands over a sieve afterward is kind of bestial, I suppose. Maybe Madison has more spoon than I thought.

A couple summer squash get diced to suitably small pieces. The corn is shucked and the kernels cut away, the blade flipped to scrape the milk from the cob. Milking corn bears a certain visual resemblance to milking a cow, but only one actually involves a knife. Score another point for Deborah.

Her recipe calls for scallions, basil, and water all of which are less ballsy than I had in mind though. I opt for shallots and epazote, replacing the water with a tea made from dried Guajillo peppers. A little olive oil softens the shallots and then everything goes down in layers, squash, tomatoes, corn, the Guajillo tea with the refreshed peppers filling in the gaps. All told, there’s barely a half-cup of liquid in the pot. Turn to low, cover, and wait. Half an hour later, you’ve got stew.

I’m always surprised at how little you really need to do to vegetables. It’s probably a childhood thing. For all the fresh veggies my family ate, they were always adulterated somehow, with herbs, olive oil, garlic, cheese, or an all-purpose amalgam of the four that found its way into a surprising number of dishes both vegetarian and meat. As a result I have a blind spot when it comes to vegetarian cooking; the recipes just don’t seem that interesting written on the page. Now admittedly this recipe contains adulterants, but in the end what you get out of it is a blindingly yellow concoction that tastes of corn and tomatoes with just enough of the squash coming through to mediate between the sweet and tart. Everything has given up its liquid and individual identity to the cause and the result is *soup*. Nothing long-simmered or mirepoix-infused, just the end-sweat of a short, intense three-ingredient menage a trois. It’s kind of magical.

So I still don’t think she’s edgy, but maybe there’s  something more to Deborah than just the wooden spoon.

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