In the sobering weeks that will lead to winter here in Quebec, I’ve been buying as much produce at the Jean Talon Market as possible. I’ve been experiencing an unsettling combination of winter-onset paranoia, hoarders-esque mentality, shoppers anxiety, and fear of abandonment. The result? Shopping sprees that end in every nook of our apartment brimming with whatever vegetable or fruit speaks to me at the market. I’ve been making a lot of spontaneous purchases, like 5 pounds of tomatillos. (What the hell am I going to do with 5 pounds of tomatillos?) So it is with a heavy heart that I tell you about this dinner, in which we bid summer farewell with one final, glorious orgy of vegetables.
I made a panzanella with half a seeded baguette, a handful of mizuna, slivers of red onions, and wedges of heirloom tomatoes, all dressed in a creamy red wine vinaigrette. There were parmesan-cornmeal crackers that I made with whole wheat flour and salted butter, spiked with thyme leaves and fleur de sel. And finally, I roasted a head of Romanesco broccoli, golden beets, red onion, and cumin seeds, onto which I dumped big spoonfuls of chunky, hand-cut pesto.
I think a lot of people assume that I eat a diet centered mostly around butter, meat, cheese, and bread. They wouldn’t be entirely wrong, but when produce is plentiful and mouthwatering — as it is right now, and has been all summer — I often find myself unintentionally eating vegan.
A promoter in Toronto invited me to curate and prepare a harvest feast in conjunction with a concert happening later that night. In my excitement, I spent all day brainstorming a menu, which was stuffed with meat, seafood, eggs, cream, and butter — only to find out later that the meal had to skew mostly vegan. At first, I thought it was going to be impossible, and maybe not that fun. How many times have we been burnt at these vaguely potlucky concert dinners by the boring, banal quinoa salad? Or the generic spinach salad? So it’s been a really fun and inspiring challenge to create dishes that reflect my kind of seasonal, healthy, and vegetable-centric aesthetic. Turns out, it wasn’t that hard after all.
The dinner pictured here epitomizes the kind of approach that I plan to take with the Toronto harvest feast on October 15. It will be classic, simple, and bursting with flavor. Which is what I love anyway — meat or no meat.