There were many things I enjoyed about cooking for myself when I moved off campus for my junior and senior years of college. For one, I no longer had to subsist on a diet of limp pasta with marinara sauce and garden burgers (the meat in the dining halls was… questionable), and for another, I got a serious kick out of grocery shopping and playing housewife in the kitchen. It felt decidedly grown up to be buying bread, milk and my own set of spices. Clearly, this meant I was truly an adult. Even if I did still call my mom to ask her questions like, “How long does chicken keep?” or “Is it safe to eat eggs past the expiration date?”
Perhaps my favorite part about cooking for myself, however, was being in complete control of what I ate. If I wanted to eat frozen pizza for dinner three nights in a row, I could. If I wanted to eat five brownies in one sitting, I could. And, if I wanted to eat an entire head of steamed broccoli with my dinner, I could.
And, incidentally, did – with more regularity than I did the former.
Unlike most children and teenagers, I loved the side of vegetables when I was growing up, and more often than not, wanted much more than the few spears of asparagus or bundle of green beans that my mom would serve me. It was amazing to me that I could make as much as I wanted when I began cooking for myself in college, and I took full advantage of the situation – eating more vegetables than most of my peers combined.
Today, I am still a sucker for my greens (and non-green roughage). My produce bins are forever overflowing past maximum capacity, I load my turkey sandwiches with more lettuce than I do turkey, and I’m always increasing the amount of vegetation in recipes. If it calls for a ½ cup of broccoli I use a cup and a half. A handful of spinach? Two cups. One carrot? Four carrots.
I feel a bit absurd sometimes when I see the quantity of food in the pan, so was thrilled when I stumbled upon the recipe for Quinn Hatfield’s Summer Vegetable Ragout with Exotic Curry Sauce in the September issue of Bon Appétit. My eyes glistened as I read the proportions – 1 ½ pounds eggplant, 1 pound assorted summer squash, 1 pound green beans, 4 ears of corn, 2 cups arugula. All this for just four servings? Hallelujah, Amen! For once, I actually needed to reduce some of the amounts – using only half an ear of corn per serving rather than a full ear. (I did, however, up the amount of fresh basil.)
The final dish was a cornucopia of fresh vegetables that I relished eating three nights in a row. Because I could -- and because I wanted to.
Summer Vegetable Ragout with Exotic Curry Sauce
Adapted from recipe by Quinn Hatfield of Hatfield’s Restaurant, as published in the September 2010 issue of Bon Appétit
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 small onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 small carrot, peeled, chopped
1 stalk lemongrass, coarsely chopped and pounded with meat mallet to flatten slightly
1 1-inch piece unpeeled fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1 small Granny Smith apple, peeled, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons curry powder (preferably Madras)
2 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 cups fresh carrot juice
1 1/2 pounds eggplants (about 2 medium), peeled, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 pound yellow squash, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 pound green beans, trimmed, cut into 2-inch lengths
2 ears of corn, husked
1 15- to 16-ounce can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), drained
2 cups (packed) arugula
1/2 cup torn fresh basil
Heat 1 teaspoon oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, lemongrass, and ginger; sauté until slightly softened but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add apple and curry powder; sauté until vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Add remaining 2 teaspoons oil, then flour and stir 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually pour in carrot juice; bring to boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered until sauce is slightly thickened and reduced to generous 2 1/2 cups, about 20 minutes. Strain sauce through fine strainer set over bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible; discard solids in strainer. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper.
DO AHEAD Curry sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Cover; chill. Rewarm before using.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Spread eggplant cubes and squash in even layer on large rimmed baking sheet, sprinkle with pepper and salt. Roast until squash and eggplant are light golden and tender, turning occasionally, about 20-25 minutes. Remove baking sheets with vegetables from oven and set aside.
Fill large bowl with water and ice. Cook beans in large pot of boiling salted water until just crisp-tender, 2 to 4 minutes, depending on size of beans. Using tongs, transfer beans to bowl of ice water to cool. Drain. Maintain boiling water in same pot; add corn. Cook until corn is just tender, about 5 minutes. Drain corn. Cool slightly. Cut kernels off corn cobs; discard cobs.
DO AHEAD Vegetables can be made 4 hours ahead. Combine all vegetables on large rimmed baking sheet. Let stand at room temperature.
Preheat oven to 400°F. Mix garbanzo beans into vegetables; bake until heated through, about 15 minutes.
Combine hot vegetables and hot curry sauce in large bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir in arugula and basil.