Our vegetable crisper drawer has a wide selection of possibilities when it comes time to make dinner but not always enough of any one vegetable to make a side dish. Perhaps your garden is just starting to produce okra with only a few pods big enough to harvest. This is a great opportunity for vegetables to team up and make side dishes that ooze garden fresh flavor.
I find that onions along with red sweet peppers have a wonderful way of boosting flavor in other vegetables. Team those two with zucchini or yellow squash and you have a combination where each flavor complements the other. Take the simple step of letting onion, either chopped or sliced, begin to brown in a lightly oiled skillet then add summer squash or zucchini, potatoes or cauliflower — you hardly need any other seasoning. This is a great technique if you are trying to cut back on salt.
This onion start is also great with chopped cabbage or kales. You can decide how much, but I use a ratio between a quarter and a half. Add a second flavor-maker vegetable like red sweet peppers and you have trios of yummy flavors evolving in the skillet, and in your mouth.
A marketing guru once told me research shows that the color red makes you salivate. If this is true, the red of a sweet pepper is perfect for helping other vegetables find their way into our menus. The pepper brings its own layer of flavor to most any dish. The roasting or sauteing of the pepper is a flavor boost worth taking time to do.
My recent foray into vegetable flavor combos involved one small yellow squash, one zucchini and several okra pods. With onions and red peppers nearly always on hand, I had the making of a great little sidekick. When sauteing several vegetables together I start with the vegetable that will take the longest first, often starting the onion with it. All you really need is just enough canola, grape-seed or olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Sometimes I include the chopped red pepper with it if I am after caramelizing it as well.
In this recent yummy combination, I started with the okra, onion and red pepper first. The yellow squash and zucchini only needed a brief time over the heat, so these were added a few minutes later after the onion began to caramelize and the okra soften. We enjoyed this multivegetable side in an all-vegetable dinner, which is perfect when we have an abundance of fresh wonderful vegetables.
I had a couple of jalapeno peppers and an ear of corn on hand so these went into a small pan of cornbread. Black-eyed peas with snaps rounded out this simple and satisfying supper. Fresh Oklahoma cantaloupe for dessert provided a light finishing touch.
With such a variety of fresh vegetables available now we can really enjoy creating satisfying combinations. Tonight we are having fresh-sliced eggplant with the onions and red peppers. If there's any left, I will put a little fresh Buffalo mozzarella cheese over it and reheat it for lunch tomorrow. Let me know what fresh veggie combos your family enjoys.
Quick Summer Veggie Combo
2 small yellow squash
2 small zucchini
14 to 16 okra pods
1 onion sliced
1 red pepper sliced
1 tablespoon oil