A Vegetarian Feast Fit for a Queen

You've listened to me wax philosophical about shopping at your local farmer's markets. I know I can be relentlessly passionate about eating and shopping locally, and maybe you've had enough of my stuff. But right about now is when all that philosophizing and dream weaving becomes a matter of practicality and smart food shopping.

okra
Okra at dusk. (Kim O'Donnel)

August is the peak period for summer produce, and when the weather cooperates, the harvest is golden, yielding tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, herbs, onions, garlic, green beans, okra, cucumbers, summer squash, corn, peaches, melon and berries. (I'm sure I'm missing something; please add to the list in the comments area below.) Sounds like the produce aisle in the supermarket, doesn't it?

And because of the variety of veg, it's easy to forget about meat at suppertime. Last night was a case in point. I stopped off at Clarendon farm market in the late afternoon, picking up tomatoes, okra and a few ears of yellow Japanese corn. I pedaled home with my goodies, and combined them with stuff already in the pantry purchased over the weekend. Dinner was boiled corn with a compound butter of basil, lime zest and chili powder; a hunk of yellow watermelon with chopped basil and sliced okra sauteed with tomatoes, garlic and jalapeno, simmered in a puddle of white wine.

okra dinner
Vegetarian still life supper: Watermelon, okra and tomatoes, corn on the cob. (Kim O'Donnel)

Nearly everything -- except the wine, lime, chili powder and butter -- came from local farm markets. The meal was stellar, the meal was seasonal, the meal was meatless. At this time of year, it's so easy to fix your very own produce-centric feast. It's like nature's free pass to culinary maestro-dom.

Try your hand at mixing and matching seasonal goodies, and let me know what kind of masterpiece you come up with. I'm already chomping at the bit for your kitchen tales!

By Kim ODonnel |  August 10, 2006; 11:17 AM ET  | Category:  Farmers Markets , Seasonal Produce , Vegetarian
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Kim, your blog has been so helpful to me as a member of a CSA. Wonderful surprises arrived (like scapes) that I didn't know what to do with. And your zucchi-mole was a wonderful way to get rid of all our extra squash.

We've been doing a lot with basil, tomatoes, and zucchini together. Last week we made a yummy vegetable soup with all the vegetables we had around. Because I was trying to cajole my 2-year-old daughter out of a bad mood by getting her to cook with me, we called it "grumpy soup." It worked in getting her in a better mood, and getting her to eat it afterwards.

The University in our town is conducting a study on dining locally, and is soliciting participants to eat only food harvested from a 100-mile radius for a month. Having small children, I don't have the energy to take it on, but my neighbor is taking on the challenge and I'll live vicariously through her.

Posted by: Ms L | August 10, 2006 12:38 PM

It sounds delicious, but what did you eat later to fill you up?

Posted by: upstate | August 10, 2006 12:40 PM

Kim, did you sautee that okra dish? How do you eliminate (or reduce) the sliminess?

Posted by: Cap Hill | August 10, 2006 01:40 PM

Your meal looked incredibly delicious, but I was struck by the fact it was lacking in protein. Although okra seeds do contain some protein, I'm not sure it's sufficient. Vegetarian meals can be quite tasty, healthy and nutritious, but this seems incomplete.

Posted by: Aaron | August 10, 2006 02:01 PM

I would suggest a medium rare T-Bone steak, hot off the grill.

Posted by: Shawn | August 10, 2006 02:05 PM

Why are meat-eaters so arrogant? No one makes snide comments when she posts blogs about meat. Get over yourselves and learn to respect other people's lifestyles.

Posted by: akm | August 10, 2006 02:53 PM

I just wanted to note that the Arlington Farmers Market (down the road from the clarendon one) on saturday mornings has some great meat/dairy/poultry producers there in addition to the usual fruit/veg folks. Also, there are a couple bakeries, a sorbet guy (deeelicious sorbet), flowers and home made soaps. so essentially, you could do almost all your food shopping right there!

Posted by: AFM | August 10, 2006 03:10 PM

Corn can be pretty filling, and is a source of protein. It is an 'incomplete' protein, but then so are most plant sources. Not every meal in a day needs complete protein - or even *any* protein - and healthiest recommendations are to eat most of your protein early in the day.

We (Americans) also generally eat far more protein than we need - vegetarian or non-vegetarian.

I eat meat often enough, but I *love* harvest celebration dinners - and meat seems to spoil the whole idea of them.

Posted by: Diane | August 10, 2006 03:22 PM

Can't breathe - being choked by the smug...*gasp!*

Posted by: **cough** | August 10, 2006 03:39 PM

Cap Hill, yes I did saute the garlic, peppers and okra, followed by the tomatoes and wine, for covered simmered thing.
Upstate: I was plenty filled up. If you need a starch, add some rice, and you'll have a complete protein with your corn.
Thanks to Diane for her salient thoughts on celebrating the harvest.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | August 10, 2006 03:50 PM

Inspired, I just had 'harvest stew/soup' for dinner, and I also am no longer grumpy (I liked that story)! Just gleanings from my garden -plus onions and garlic and chicken. Lots of rosemary to flavor (just did a big trimming back of my bush).

anyway, you asked about other masterpieces, I don't have any of that, but I love grilled vegetables - and a favorite way to keep it interesting is to experiment a lot with herbs and spices. A single one, or if I feel particularly competent one day, a blend. I just dust/chop it on with some olive oil +/- garlic and/or soy sauce. *EASY* and lets me play with my herb garden.

Also - gazpacho! augmented with any raw veggies that look good. MMM. Especially made spicy!

Haven't been to a farmers market in ~ a month - now I can't wait until Sunday. Thanks for the column.

(I think *cough* needs to make some of that grumpy soup!)

Posted by: Diane | August 10, 2006 09:57 PM

This is the kind of meal we have at least once a week during the summer. On Wednesday night, we roasted yellow squash, zucchini, peppers and corn on the grill, made tomato sandwiches and just ate peaches and watermelon for dessert. Everyone had enough to eat. We look forward to these meals every summer.

Posted by: Julie | August 11, 2006 10:37 AM

Kim,

I made your okra dish last night and it was great. It was only the third time I've ever had okra. Every other stand had some at the Dupont farmers' market, and I was inspired by your blog to buy. I am now a convert. I added some steamed green beans and fresh marjoram along with the other ingredients and served over couscous. It was plenty of food, and I have some left over for lunch today (yay!). Summer is definitely a good time to go meatless. Thanks for all the info.

Posted by: DC | August 23, 2006 08:40 AM

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