Thursday, February 20, 2020

On the MENU This Week. Escalivada

It is that time of the year when the supermarkets are full of the most delicious vegetables.  This dish originates in Spain and is a selection of Mediterranean vegetables that are roasted whole and then served as a salad.  Over the years we have added one or two local vegetables to the mix and they have really added to an already almost perfect dish.
We find many people fail at roasted vegetables simply because they cut them up before cooking and then grill them, this means they do not concentrate in flavour and often dry out.
You need to leave most of them whole and you do need to bake them in the oven.  You then get the benefit of their juices in the bottom of the pan which help to make up the dressing.  If you are a fan of roasted garlic, include a whole head of garlic when you add the tomatoes. You can then peel this and add the cloves to the salad at the end.
1 red, 1 green, 1 yellow pepper  -   1 or 2 small aubergines - 2 large purple onions - 5 medium courgettes - 2 large tomatoes
 2 crushed garlic cloves -  Extra Virgin Olive oil  - Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional: 2 small sweet potatoes – 1 small butternut – 1 head of garlic
Peel the onions and cut a cross twice in their tops, cutting only 2/3rd of the way down.  Leave all the vegetables whole but remove any stalks. Oil the peppers, aubergine, onion and courgettes well, sprinkle with salt and pepper and put them into a large baking tray, drizzle with more oil and place in a moderate 160°C oven for 45 minutes. Remove the tray from the oven and add the two oiled tomatoes and the head of garlic if using. Return to the oven for another 15 minutes.
Have a large bowl ready - glazed earthenware with 5 cm sides looks good. Place the onions in the centre of the bowl - they will have opened out like lilies. Slice the aubergine but leave it as a whole, showing both the purple skin and the pale lime interior.  Ditto the courgettes and the tomatoes.  Put the warm peppers into a plastic bag and let them steam till cool. You then will be able to easily peel the peppers, deseed them and chop into fairly large pieces. Add them to the dish with their juices. The object is to make a very pretty arrangement of the vegetables so that there are patches of contrasting colour, not to mix them up together.
Now deglaze the baking tray with some fresh green olive oil, add the crushed garlic, taste and adjust the seasoning. Perhaps a dash of balsamic vinegar or glaze?  Then pour these wonderful juices over the vegetables and serve. If you serve it cold, you will find that the juices often jellify. This dish just cries out for a good ciabatta to soak up all those lovely juices. 
What local vegetables do we add?  Sweet potatoes which you roast whole with the other vegetables. Butternut, but cut big slices on their skins and remove the seeds. This way you get some caramelisation on them, which adds to the flavour
All content © John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus

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