Dribs and Drabs of food in my refrigerator haunt me. I blame the farmer’s market for the lush tomatoes and vivid red and yellow peppers that I like to keep on the table – ignoring them until they are on the edge of extinction. Eggplants always seem so sturdy and indestructible with their thick skins that I ignore their girth when I purchase them only to be frustrated with them when they take up the whole refrigerator vegetable bin. And who ever purchased one ear of corn? (Also refrigerator hogs, by the way.) There’s always one that will not fit on the grill or in the microwave and languishes lonely and near forgotten until desperation hits the dinner table.
Fortunately, restaurants have set the stage for serving dribs and drabs. So what if you don’t have enough one of thing to feed everyone what would formerly have been considered a portion? A few dribs and drabs of everything will make an empty plate look like a vegetable repast.
Or stretch it -- let them eat a bit of manqué choux, which accommodates shrimp quite nicely, or ratatouille, which is easily tucked underneath a cooked chicken breast.
Dot blanched green beans with sautéed mushrooms so dark and wizened some need to have their stems tossed in the stock pot along with the corn husks. If need be, as pictured here, have a massive cook off, cutting the bad spots out of eggplants, chopping them rather than slicing them, cutting the peppers into diamond shapes, and using all the zucchini at once. Baked rather than sautéed, the cook’s work is done and bon bons are in order.
If all that is in the refrigerator is one pie crust a partial container of feta and half a log of goat cheese, with demise beckoning a very ripe tomato, bake the pie crust in a tart pan (please, please go out and buy one to use with the rolls on pie crusts from the refrigerator section in the grocery store), slice and cook the tomato in the oven until enough moisture is gone to prevent a soggy pie and the flavor is intensified, and peel that hapless zucchini with a potato peeler, lengthwise, before forming the resulting ribbons into a lattice atop the roasted tomato and sprinkled goat cheese and running the whole thing in the oven to heat through and melt the cheese. It too will accommodate cooked shrimp or shredded chicken if need be, and certainly is a meal for a king.
PEPPERY BEEF TRI-TIP ROAST
Makes 6-8 servings
This is a dish that does not require much preparation before it is baked and soon on the table. A time saver like this is a good choice for any cook. This cut is new to the South, originating in the 1950’s in California, and taking until the turn of the 2000’s to reach our grocery stores on a regular basis. It is known for its combination of flavor and tenderness when not overcooked. Cut from the bottom triangle of the sirloin, the tri-tip is an irregular triangle that provides well done meat at the ends of its triangle, with more rare pieces on the thicker point. If only one temperature of meat is desired, the bottom points may be tied together making a thicker roast that has all parts cook more evenly. It is important to remove it from the oven ten minutes before carving to enable the temperature to rise and for the roast to rest and its juices distributed.
1 beef tri-tip roast (1-1/ to 2 pounds)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon packed brown sugar
1-2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/ teaspoon salt
1/ teaspoon dried thyme or rosemary
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Combine olive oil, packed brown sugar, cracked black pepper, garlic, salt and thyme. Rub this seasoning mixture onto the beef roast. Transfer to an oiled baking pan and bake uncovered, until internal temperature reaches 135 degrees for rare, 140°F for medium rare; 155°F for medium, approximately 20-30 minutes depending on thickness. Tent loosely with aluminum foil; let stand 10 minutes. Carve against the grain into thin slices.
MERI'S WATERMELON SALAD
Watermelon has always been a staple at southern cookouts This is a spectacular addition with a crumble of salty feta and a handful of the fresh, sweet blueberries that are in season simultaneously, it makes a beautiful red white and blue salad that’s delicious and healthy.
2 cups fresh watermelon, cut into sticks or cubes
1 pint fresh blueberries
6 oz feta cheese, crumbled or grated
1 (5oz) package fresh mache or baby spinach
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and fresh pepper
fresh herbs to taste (basil, thyme, rosemary, etc)
Whisk the Dijon mustard and honey with the balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Season with salt and fresh pepper. Add fresh herbs from the garden if available! Toss the greens with the dressing (you may have some leftover) and divide onto 4-6 serving plates with the watermelon, blueberries, and feta. If using for a cookout, assemble salad ingredients together in a large serving bowl and dress just before serving.