We’ve been accused on more than one occasion of being knuckle dragging, drooling carnivores when it comes to the Friday Feast.
Part of that criticism rings true; we’d no doubt choose the side that argued ‘man could live by meat alone’ even if, deep in our hearts, we knew well that tasty proteins ain’t everything.
Friend Libby, catering wizard, fly fisher and all around nice gal, introduced us to this dish a couple of years ago on her back deck one (relatively speaking) coolish, late fall Austin evening.
She had promised a vegetarian meal that would transport us to a veranda in southern Italy or Spain (she served it with a Spanish Rioja), a meal good enough to make you ponder, if even for an hour or two, the possibility of never touching meat again.
I was duly skeptical as to any vegetarian meal being that transcendent, though I’ll be damned, she was right.
When she pulled two sizzling trays of these crackling vegetables out of the oven and centered them on the table, it was all our group could do to wait 5 or 6 minutes until we could handle them bare-fingered, stripping away the onion skins, roots and stems as we munched away.
Little details add a great deal here, like a quality, somewhat spicy olive oil and a flavorful sea salt. And Libby insisted that we tear off a hunk of the rustic peasant bread, eat with our hands, and sop up the vegetable juices and olive oil right out of the pan. (Ok, I’ll give you that a spoon might help for the tomatoes.)
Healthy and outrageously tasty. Cheers, Libby.
2 clumps of tomatoes on the vine (4 or 5 tomatoes each)
1 leek, cleaned and trimmed of dark green leaves
2 yellow bell peppers
2 red bell peppers
1 butternut squash, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 red onions, unpeeled, root fibers removed
2 sweet onions, unpeeled, root fibers removed
1 head of garlic, separated and peeled
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Fresh rustic bread
Prep time. Wash and dry the vegetables; pull the root fibers from the onions and trim the leeks.
Halve the bell peppers through the stems (leave the stems on) and remove the pith and seeds; split the leek down its long axis. Cut the onions in half, leaving the skin, tops and root bundles on. Peel the garlic using the nifty technique below.
Roasting time. Preheat the oven to 475; lightly oil a large, rimmed baking sheet. Place the vegetables on the roasting sheet cut side up. Drizzle with about half the oil and sprinkle liberally with the sea salt, fresh ground pepper and red pepper flakes if using.
Roast in the upper half of the oven for 30-35 minutes until you simply can’t resist the aroma any longer, the cut sides of the vegetables are caramelizing and there’s a major sizzle going on.
Feast time. Cool for at least five minutes, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and plunk into the middle of the table with a loaf of rustic bread. Best eaten with the hands, peeling away the stems and onion skins as you go. Soak up those pan juices and oil with a handful of bread.