The radio was burbling a nice mix of easy-going blues and jazz. The DJ introduced “Stormy Weather” and right before the song started, I was startled to hear him murmur, “Just let the rain come, already.”
A secular prayer.
The radio forecast says it’ll rain soon – yes, please God. I know that in other countries, the rain has been no blessing these past months. But here, we pray that rain should come, each in his own way.
Still, this cool, sunny weather has its pleasures. Before winter arrives and makes shopping a wet chore, the shuk is where I like to linger. The vendors are as strident as ever, but the shoppers, like me, seem more relaxed and in less of rush.
See that banner, high up in the back? It advertises a little eatery called “Mother’s Kitchen.” I dunno…my late Dad always joked, Never eat at a place called “Mom’s.”
There’s a new flower vendor, who set up his table smack in the middle of the road. Nobody complains that he makes foot traffic divide into two streams. Here he is, greeting a friend.
The vegetables are as plump and succulent as though it had rained all week. Broccoli and cauliflower that looked desolate a few weeks ago, hold up firm, full heads. Tables are piled with grapes of all grapey colors.
Tomatoes are still reasonably priced and onions are tempting and round in their silky yellow peels.
Which they weren’t, when it was really hot and all we got were wizened little onion sprouts with damp black skins.
I always overbuy at the shuk, loading my wheeled cart (my little-old-lady-cart, my kids call it) – past capacity. Who can resist the seductive eggplants, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, zucchini? And when I’ve pushed open my door and hauled my cart inside, I unload inspiration for dinner.
This is dinner, then: roasted winter vegetables sitting snugly on a bed of savory, cheesefull, hot polenta. It’s a relaxed, easy recipe that accepts almost any firm vegetable and satisfies your hungers for food and deliciousness.
Roasted Vegetables On A Bed Of Polenta
4 cups mixed vegetables – see suggestions below
3 tablespoons chopped herbs: basil, oregano, rosemary or 1 tablespoon dried spices
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 recipe polenta (link below)
1/2 cup grated hard cheese
You start with four cups of your favorite vegetables. Use at least four, if not seven or eight kinds. Make sure to include tomatoes and onions, that’s the only thing I ask. Throw a couple of peeled garlic cloves into the mix, if you like. You see that here, it was eggplant, tomatoes, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, celery, onions, and zucchini. Not visible is the garlic. There was garlic in there. Because if deprived of garlic for a day, I go all over funny.
And you chop up herbs of choice to make up about 3 tablespoons when chopped up.
This time, I went to my balcony containers and snipped rosemary, sage, garlic chives, nettles and a little za’atar. It could have been only one of those, or different ones entirely.
If there are no fresh herbs on hand, combine 1 teaspoon each of the dried spices you favor. I suggest cumin, oregano, a touch of allspice if you have it. Forget not the salt. Also forget not the black pepper and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Combine the herbs (or spices) with seasonings and olive oil in a large bowl, then toss the chopped vegetables in this herby, spicy, oily mix.
Roast at 375° F – 200° C for 20 minutes, stirring once during that time. Then check for doneness. If needed, roast another 10-15 minutes.
While the vegetables are roasting, prepare the polenta – recipe here. It takes about 7 seven minutes. And grate about 1/2 cup of Parmesan or Pecorino or Thom cheese into a bowl, to top the finished dish. Use any cheese you like, really. (I told you this was a relaxed dish.) Serve with beer or white wine, and then you’ll certainly relax. Enjoy!