Monday, June 29, 2009

Steamed Vegetables

Mosquito Creek ran through our back yard. It was a great place to sit and think.

One year my dad plowed an acre of land. Several of us, in an assembly line fashion, were planting the field with potatoes when my mother's toy poodle, Snoopy, was discovered following behind us, digging the potatoes up. It was odd little things like this that lead us to start calling our common family farm, “Colonel Carten's Funny Farm.”
If events were common or not, what vegetables we grew were the typical vegetables grown. There is a certain amount of acceptance of the common vegetable on a farm, but it was never seen as the main source of your diet. We foraged for fruits, nuts, and herbs from the wild around us, but it was dairy, beef, pork, and chicken that was thought of first when planning a meal.
It took learning, on my own, about herbs, nutrition, and allergies to consider the idea of being vegetarian. While working in a health food store I tried the food others were sharing and were insisting this food, this diet, was far superior than the average American diet. It gave me more energy. My gut wasn't constantly bloated and my weight was much easier to control.
Pure foods, those untainted by chemicals, barely cooked, and eaten fresh by themselves are sweet and juicy. The flavor comes out and stands on its own, to be enjoyed and cherished. It's easy to fall in love with food that loves your body. It's food I want over and over again.
At a Christmas party for the health food store we went to a restaurant that served only vegetarian. I ordered a dish of something, the name of which I no longer know. It was lightly saute´d vegetables and pine nuts over a bed of fettuccine floating in olive oil and basil. When it arrived I thought can this be good? All that oil. It was heavenly.
Here is my version of that dish I fell in love with so long ago. The base of this recipe is just a bunch of basic vegetables. Onion, garlic, carrots, and celery cleaned, chopped, and tossed into a steaming pot and then steamed until desired tenderness.
From this point you can change the combination of vegetables and add other food items. Toss it with olive oil, a sauce, or gravy. Place it on a bed of rice, potatoes, or pasta. Top it with nothing more than salt and enjoy it like that.
I find that I like it best with a handful of canned, black beans, and a tablespoon of basil sprinkled on top, to be steamed with the vegetables. I place this all, along with some cooked rice fettuccine noodles, into a fry pan with plenty of olive oil sautéing until the food is well coated with the oil and the oil is well heated.
As a potluck item you can add chopped meat and complementary spices and herbs. Rutabagas, potatoes, and parsnips are nice additions when using beef. A quick white sauce tossed in will work well with chicken.
Try cabbage, carrots, and ham steamed together for a quick nutritious dish when you are in a hurry for dinner. My family wouldn't eat this one, but I would if I could have pork.

Black Bean and Steamed Vegetables
Serves 2
One large carrot sliced on a diagonal to make the slices large.
One small onion chopped into large chunks.
Three cloves of garlic each cut in half the long way.
One stalk of celery chop them into ½ inch chunks.
1/3 cup of canned black beans (rinsed)
1 tablespoon of dried basil
2/3 of cooked rice or rice fettuccine noodles

I place each item into the steamer, except rice or noodles, in the order given above. I toss the vegetables once or twice during cooking. If the rice or noodles are leftovers from a previous meal I include them on top of the vegetables for about 2 minutes of steaming before tossing with olive oil. I don't measure the oil; I guess it would be 2 or 3 tablespoons. I would drowned it in oil if I thought my gall bladder and my effort to maintain proper weight would tolerate it. On days when I need to avoid the fat I drizzle on Tamari (gluten-free soy sauce), or lemon juice.
Finally, saute´ all ingredients together in a fry pan and until the oil is hot and has absorbed a bit of the flavor and aroma of the basil.