Episode 107: Vegetable Plates

Sara Moulton on set

Sara Moulton on set

This show is about vegetable main dishes. These meatless but intensely-flavored entrees should appeal to vegetarians and carnivores alike. They fill a whole chapter and are certainly among my favorite recipes in the book. They are quick to make, the ingredients are inexpensive, and none requires too much else to round out a meal.

Recipes

  • Grilled Shiitake, Sweet Potato and Eggplant Kabobs
    Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals, page 220
    Recommended Side Dishes: Herbed Pea Medley, Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals, page 37 and Simple Boiled Rice, Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals, page 40
    Recommended Wine Pairing: Riesling or Chardonnay
    • Giant Stuffed Mushrooms
      Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals, page 218
      Recommended Side Dishes: Sauteed Beets with Balsamic Vinegar, Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight Meals, page 305 or a tossed green salad with tomatoes
      Recommended Wine Pairing: Pinot Noir or Chardonnay
    • Parsley Pesto

    Tips

    Rice vinegar and rice wine vinegar are less acidic than red or white wine vinegars and add a subtle flavor to sauces, salad dressings, or marinades.

    Japanese eggplants have fewer seeds and are less bitter than Mediterranean eggplants. They are also smaller and easy to handle. Despite rumors to the contrary about the larger Mediterranean eggplants, there is no such thing as male and female eggplants. (It has been alleged that female eggplants have more seeds which makes the eggplant bitter) When the Mediterranean eggplants stay too long on the vine and get too big, they can develop too many seeds and become bitter but that has nothing to do with sex.

    Shiitake mushrooms have a much lower water content than other mushrooms. Their stems are so dry and tough they can’t be used in recipes. However, save them in the freezer and use them to infuse a stock with flavor.

    Always check the rind when buying parmesan cheese. Parmigiano-Reggiano has its name right on the rind and although it may seem a bit pricy, a little goes a long way, so use the real thing. By the way when you have grated the cheese all the way down to the rind, don’t throw the rind out. You can add it to soups and stews for a je ne sais quoi added boost of flavor.

    Choose a pinot noir when serving a mushroom dish. Both have an earthy quality that makes them a good pair.

    Tools

    Steaming is a fast and fat-free way to cook any vegetable. Whether you choose, a collapsible steamer (like I used in college), a bamboo steamer like the one I use on this show, or an electric counter-top steamer pretty much depends upon the space you have to store it and how much you want to spend for it. The collapsible steamer is available wherever kitchen tools are sold, the bamboo steamer and a selection of stove-top and electric steamers are available at Williams Sonoma.

    Ingredients

    There is a difference between Rice Vinegar and Rice Wine Vinegar. Rice vinegar is made by fermenting rice. Rice wine vinegar is made from the lees left over when making Rice Wine.

    Miso, also known as bean paste, is a staple of Japanese cuisine made from salted and fermented soybeans and a grain, usually rice or barley. It has a creamy consistency, much like peanut butter, and comes in a wide variety of flavors and colors. The lighter-colored versions are used in more delicate soups and sauces, and the darker-colored varieties give body and flavor to heavier dishes. You can find it packaged in tubs, jars, and tubes in Asian stores and increasingly at the supermarket. It will keep for several months in the fridge. For years I experienced miso only in Japanese restaurants in the ubiquitous miso soup, but now it has become a staple in my pantry.