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Veggie Medley

I am not a fan of the summer heat in Alabama; however, I LOVE the food that such a climate makes possible! This week, we still have salad fixings in our garden. We also have the first of our hot peppers and we have lots of green tomatoes!  I’ve never seen so many tomatoes so early in the growing season.

The farmers markets are packed with people buying fresh produce. We went to the Madison City Farmer’s Market on Saturday and bought rainbow Swiss chard, new red potatoes, purple onions, green beans, peaches, and golden zucchini. We had fresh vegetables for dinner last night – sautéed chard with purple onions, a vegetable medley, and roasted asparagus (we bought that at Publix). And for dessert, we had sliced peaches and strawberries with a bit of whipped cream, sprinkled with gluten-free gingersnap cookie crumbs.

This vegetable medley recipe is my take on a classic Southern dish – green beans and potatoes. Typically, when you order green beans and potatoes at a Meat and Three (that’s what you call a restaurant that serves plate lunches), they are cooked with bacon and they can be a little mushy because they are cooked a long time.

More about Meat and Three restaurants…
At these restaurants, you often get a choice of a meat entrée and three side dishes (the choices can vary daily). Or, you can just get a veggie plate (my meal of choice). I thought these restaurants were all over the U.S., but then my husband Matt (“The Yankee”) told me it was regional. Who knew?!? Guess it is closest to a cafeteria, diner, or a dive in other parts of the country. Some of my favorite veggie sides include turnip greens, collards, black eyed peas, crowder peas, purple hull peas, squash casserole, green beans and potatoes, boiled okra, candied yams (a.k.a. glazed sweet potatoes), mashed potatoes, creamed corn, boiled cabbage, tomatoes and okra, fried okra, fried green tomatoes, and macaroni and cheese. I also love that at many Meat & Three restaurants, fruit cobbler (or banana pudding, a.k.a. nanner puddin’) counts as a vegetable. Also, congealed salad (a.k.a. Jell-O), tomato aspic (essentially, tomato Jell-O), and deviled eggs are also considered “sides.” Only in the South! Meals are served with an obligatory sweet tea. In this regard I am a Yankee and prefer unsweetened iced tea. There goes my southern cred (if there is such a thing!).

Unfortunately the food choices at many Meat and Three restaurants are not very healthy. Often, the dishes are cooked with lard or bacon, and lots of salt. In moderation and on rare occasions, these restaurants are fine. However, many people eat at these places every day. I think the sugar, salt, fat, and large portions are contributing factors to the obesity epidemic in the South. But you don’t need all the sugar, salt, and fat to have delicious Southern food. I am thankful there are nationally acclaimed chefs that are changing the perception of Southern cuisine. I am a big fan of two Southern chefs in the Birmingham area:  Frank Stitt and Chris Hastings. Both are James Beard award winners and their restaurants prove that Southern food can be delicious and not over-the-top unhealthy.

Don’t get me wrong, I can cook unhealthy Southern fare; Paula Deen has nothing on me. However, I am making an effort to prepare healthier versions of the dishes I loved as a child. So, I decided to make a lighter version of the green beans and potatoes side, using fresh produce from the farmer’s market. It’s not the same as the side you might get at Mama Annie’s, G’s Country Kitchen, or Blue Plate Cafe, but it is good. I hope you will agree.

Farmer’s Market Veggie Medley:

¼ to ½ cup chopped onion or shallot (I used 1 small purple onion)

1 tablespoon butter (or olive oil)

6 cups water

1 teaspoon salt (feel free to use less or omit if you are watching your sodium intake)

3 cups green beans, in 1-inch pieces (I think it was a pint container)

1½ cups chopped new potatoes (I used red and left most of the skin)

1½ cups chopped golden zucchini (or green zucchini, patty pan, or summer squash)

Salt and pepper (black or red), to taste

Chopped parsley or dill, optional garnish

In a frying pan, sauté the chopped onion in butter or oil. In a large pot, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the salt. Stir in the green beans. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and stir. Cover and simmer 5 minutes. Add the zucchini and stir. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to strain out the veggies and add to the onions in the frying pan. Stir. Add a little of the cooking water (a.k.a pot likker or pot liquor) if you prefer more “sauce.” Add some more salt and pepper to taste (if you want). Serves: 4-6.

 

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  1. Cyndia
    May 24, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Question: so you cook your green beans longer than your potatoes? I always start potatoes first and cook them about 20 minutes total; green beans about 10, then squash 5. Is there a reason you do it this way? Just wondering.
    I’m loving all these fresh veggies as well!

    • May 24, 2012 at 4:27 pm

      Good point Cyndia. Matt had the same question (great minds…) . I’ll update the recipe. The green beans seemed tough when I bought them. On the other hand, the potatoes were very fresh. I wanted the beans cooked, but the potatoes to keep their shape. Thus my order. But hey, this is just a guide, if you prefer slightly more cooked potatoes, do them first. However, I would keep the zucchini until the end. Mushy squash/zucchini = bad.

  2. May 24, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Thanks for reminding me that peaches have arrived. Yum! I live around the corner from the Madison farmers’ market. I like simple, and I’m looking forward to trying your latest recipe!

    • May 24, 2012 at 4:29 pm

      The peaches were very fragrant, but not quite as tasty as the ones later in the season. But I was so happy to see fresh peaches, I tried them anyway. Hope to bump into you some Saturday at the market!

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