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You’ll see in my blog roll a link to SlowFoodUSA. If you are interested in what you eat and how, if you are interested in the environment, sustainability, and the value of eating locally, I urge you to click that link and find out more about the organization. From their website, I took this quote, “Slow Food is an idea, a way of living and a way of eating. It is a global, grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and the environment.”

How do you bring this concept home, literally “home”? Yesterday as I was fixing supper, I wasn’t even thinking about SlowFoodUSA. I was just thinking that there was “nothing in the house to eat.” You know that old saw that really means “there’s nothing in the house that I feel like eating,” or “there’s nothing in the house that I feel like taking the time to cook.” There were things in the house to eat, mostly random produce from my just-beginning-to-bear garden. As I pondered my options, various vegetable combinations began to present themselves in a very disjointed, but — as it turned out — deliciously serendipity vegetarian dinner.

the unlikely fixings

fingerling potatoes just dug

For the first time this year, I’m growing potatoes. I chose an organic fingerling. They’ve been looking really nice until a few days ago when I noticed that some of the leaves had what looked like a potato blight. I panicked; cut down the plant and threw it in the trash — no composting for this suspicious specimen. Then I dug the tubers to see if anything was really growing under there.  Voila! Baby potatoes that were small, put perfect and untouched by any blight.

Yesterday was the day to thin the beets. I’ve thinned them all along, but this was time for some serious pulling. As opposed to just pretty beet greens with bright red roots, this thinning produced beet greens with some sweet little bulbs at the bottom. Beet greens are great — think of spinach, chard, or kale. They are actually related to chard. When the greens are really small, they make a terrific and colorful addition to a salad. When they are a bit bigger, steam then briefly like spinach or stir fry.

baby beets with beet greens

Continue with the cast of characters. . . my next door neighbor, Sandy, gave me some onion sets in the early spring. The other day they were bent over and browning out. I wanted to claim their space for some more beans, so I pulled them out. Only about a half dozen smallish white onions. There weren’t enough to bother to cure them.

Then there’s the Black Beauty Zucchini. I started this from seed inside late last winter. Don’t bother to do that. Maybe start in a flat outside, but squash like it hot and sunny and this poor plant nearly died waiting for Memorial Day and warm enough weather to move to the garden. Now it’s a beautiful, full, lush squash plant, but is only producing small zukes. I picked off four yesterday that were about an inch in diameter and maybe four to five inches long.

Black Beauty zucchini plants in garden

I was beginning to see a strange stir fry coming together with grilled zukes as the “main dish,” and some basmati rice on the side.

the process

I washed and quartered the fingerlings; washed, peeled, and sliced the six small onions. The beets were a two-step process. Soak and wash the roots and leaves, being careful to remove all dirt. It likes to hide in little crevices in the leaves and on the beet root. Cut off the small beet root, trimming away the long tap root and the leaf stalk. Since they are small (the largest was an inch in diameter) they are very tender and don’t require peeling. Cut off some (or all if you prefer) of the stalk and put it in the compost bin. Slice the leaves into large pieces. Now I had a very large (three gallon) bowl filled with mostly beet greens and punctuated with red slices of beets, white wedges of potato, and even whiter rings of onion.

Just cleaned the zucchini, trimmed off both ends, and sliced in half. For the rice, I substituted vegetable bouillon for the water and added a tablespoon of olive oil.

a bit of interest

We have some friends staying with us while they’re between apartments. One is a gentle young woman named Brandi, a vegetarian with an exquisitely beautiful face, piercing brown eyes, and long, full dreadlocks. When she arrived, she tucked a few of her condiments in the refrigerator. I noticed some organic peanut sauce the other day and thought maybe that might be good with the sugar snap peas. Then, as I was pondering my seat-of-the-pants stir fry, I remembered the peanut sauce. “Why not?” Really thought that some raw peanuts would add just the right texture to the mix, but I didn’t have any. What I did have tucked away in the freezer (purchased in December with the plan of making pignolia cookies) was a generous bag of pignoli nuts. “Peanuts — pignoli, what the heck, let’s give it a try.”

the execution

This was so easy and so fast, it was a joy. Start the rice. It will take about forty minutes. While you’re waiting, pour yourself a glass of wine and relax for a half hour. When you are almost ready to eat, heat the grill for five minutes. Put the sliced zucchini on the grill naked. I added nothing — no marinate, no oil, zip. Just let them cook for about three minutes on a side.

While the zukes are cooking, heat one to two tablespoons of olive oil in your wok. (I have a burner on my grill, so I do this outside.) When the oil is hot, put the chopped vegetable mixture (beet greens, beets, onions, potatoes) into the wok and cover. Stir about every minute or two and cook for about five minutes. Beet greens will be wilted. Add two tablespoons of the peanut sauce and one-quarter cup of pignoli nuts. Stir until warm and mixed — about thirty seconds.

Serve stir fry, grilled zucchini, and rice immediately.

the surprise

I thought that I was making enough for dinner for Bob and I and leftovers for lunch. Ha! We ate it all and kept exclaiming to each other how good it was. The peanut sauce on the stir fry added the desired interest, but didn’t overwhelm. The potatoes were the real star. They were tender with a distinctive potato flavor that was enhanced by their companions. The red of the beets added a pink cast to the onions and potatoes, but kept its beet flavor to itself. The pignoli contributed the expected and satisfying crunch, but also complemented the other flavors.

As good as the stir fry was, the zucchini almost stole the show with its pure, innocent, unenhanced flavor. Grilled just enough to be warm and al dente, it made me wonder why I’ve always tried to jazz it up. A few grains of ground sea salt was perfect.

The meal was a triumph because it was so tasty and satisfying, but also because it was local (except rice, sauce, and pignoli) and ever so fresh. I triumph for slow food that is delicious, affordable, easy, and quick to prepare. Life is good!

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