Vegetables can be so satisfying this time of year. Partly because they’re garden-ripe, partly because our appetites are diminished by the blistering summer heat, which can sometimes make a hunk of meat seem downright unappealing. I unwittingly had a vegetarian dinner the other night. A sandwich, on grilled batard, featuring grilled eggplant, orange bell pepper, and zucchini. Topped the veg with arugula dressed in red wine vinaigrette, and spread some truffled goat cheese on the warm bread. Served the sandwich with buttered, candy-sweet Silver Queen corn and came away from the meal fully sated, without missing meat in the least.
So simple. Deceptively simple, in fact, because vegetables are trickier than they seem. As Frank Bruni noted in his review of Per Se — Thomas Keller’s East Coast counterpart to The French Laundry — what launched the restaurant into the four-star stratosphere was its nine-course vegetable tasting. “Lobster is easy; potato salad is hard,” Bruni writes. (I’ll eat at Per Se on July 4. There, now you know. Lately I’ve found ways to work Per Se into conversations on just about anything, from teen pregnancy to groundwater tables. Forgive me. I’m giddy like a school girl. I’ll give you a course-by-course recounting of my meal next week, whether you want it or not.) But with farm-fresh seasonal produce — and a cold bottle of crisp white or rose for good measure — I believe we’ll have the makings of a four-star vegetable-centric meal at home all summer long.
Dish of the Week: Grilled Portobello, Bell Pepper, and Goat Cheese Sandwiches
The portobello brings meatiness to this hearty vegetarian dish. Try it with a little arugula, if you like; dress the greens with the vinegar mixture that marinates the vegetables.