Sure, it sounds crazy to heat up a hot summer kitchen to roast our farmers market vegetables. Bear with me. A fridge brimming with containers of roasted cauliflower, eggplant, onions, peppers, mushrooms and squash practically guarantees phenomenal salads, omelets, grain bowls, sandwiches and pasta dishes. To say nothing of savory snacks at the ready.
So, we gather, prep and roast early in the morning in preparation for the meals ahead. When cooler heads prevail, those roasted goodies turn into lunchtime thrillers and dinner inspirations.
Roasted eggplant always inspires — especially when paired with za’atar, a Middle Eastern seasoning blend made from sesame seeds, sumac, oregano, thyme and other herbs. Sprinkle it on generously with a bit of olive oil before roasting. The whole kitchen will smell wonderful.
Mostly, I serve roasted eggplant and other vegetables warm or at room temperature seasoned simply with a shower of fresh herbs. This summer, a quick, nondairy, yet creamy dressing, made from tahini (sesame seed paste), fresh lemon juice and garlic, changes things up a bit.
For a meatless main course, I stir the tahini dressing into roasted eggplant along with garlicky whole wheat couscous. Alternatively, I’ll serve the dressing over grilled or broiled fish fillets or chicken cutlets with the roasted vegetables on the side.
An offhand remark about fun ballpark food led to this summer’s indulgence: Roasted veggie nachos. No neon cheese here — rather neon-colored orange cauliflower bronzed with red chile. Other farmers market purchases, such as jalapeños and corn, get roasted alongside the florets then piled over thick tortilla chips before a shower of shredded cheese. Adding tender black beans for protein helps us rationalize nachos as dinner. Especially when served on the patio with a leafy green salad and icy margaritas.
Feel free to skip the tortilla chips and finish the roasted cauliflower simply with a shower of cheese and fresh cilantro.
All of these recipes, like so much of our summer cooking, are better when chunks of ripe, red tomato are added. And cold beer with a splash of fresh limeade to cool off the cook.