I have almost finished reading Hélène Dujardin of Tartelette‘s book Plate to Pixel (which, by the way, I highly recommend as an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to improve their food styling and photography). Hélène is extremely talented and when her blog posts pop up on my RSS feed I literally can’t wait to see her new culinary and photographic creations. If you haven’t seen her work, you’re missing out.
In the book, Hélène suggests that you “create a scene” and consider the story behind a dish when styling and shooting it. I found this to be a really useful tip but I was also relieved to read one of her later comments, “Don’t worry, it’s not always so deep. There are times when I cook something because it looks good and I want to make it for my family…no family history, no first date story, no birthday celebration…”
This is one such recipe. No deep and meaningful story behind it, just a dish that went down a treat at a BBQ we had recently. A couple of guests asked for the recipe so I figured I’d share it with you too. I love roasted veggies and I was looking to make something filling and more exciting than a basic pasta salad to accompany the meat.
You aren’t restricted to the vegetables I have used and could easily add or substitute other ingredients such as asparagus spears, mushrooms (add halfway through cooking) or olives and sun dried tomatoes (add cold at the end). If time isn’t on your side you could do the veggies on the BBQ as I did here instead of in the oven. As far as the cheese goes, I used feta but I think it would also be great with halloumi which you could grill in a tray on the BBQ and throw in at the last minute.
Oh and for those in Bahrain, Al Ghalia Farms have recently started stocking some supermarkets with their locally grown produce. I was lucky enough to find some wild rocket which I used in this recipe – fresher and less expensive than the imported varieties and well worth looking out for.
INGREDIENTS250g cherry tomatoes (approx 15 tomatoes)
3 peppers/capsicum (mix of red, green, yellow or orange)
400g courgettes/zucchini/marrow (3-4 small marrows)
500g baby eggplants (6-8 eggplants - why baby eggplants?) 400g butternut squash or pumpkin
2 large red onions
3 cloves garlic, crushed or finely chopped
1 handful chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil Olive Oil Sea salt & black pepper to taste 250g pasta (conchiglie, fusilli or anything else bite-sized) 200g light feta cheese
2 or 3 handfuls of wild rocket For the Dressing:
(adapted from Good Food Middle East November 2011) 3 tbsp pomegranate molasses*
3 tbsp lemon juice
80 ml extra virgin olive oil
*Pomegranate molasses (or grenadine molasses) is readily available in Middle Eastern supermarkets but if you can’t find it and would like to make your own, Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes has shared an easy recipe here.
Preheat the oven to 200˚C/400˚F. Wash all the veggies and peel the squash and onions. Cut the squash, peppers, courgettes, eggplants and onions into 2cm cubes and put in a large non-stick baking tray. Add the tomatoes, garlic, herbs and salt and pepper. Drizzle generously with olive oil and mix well so all the vegetables are well coated. Place in the oven uncovered.
After 45 minutes, take out the tray, stir the veggies well and return them to the oven for another 30-45 minutes or until they are soft and starting to brown. In the meantime, boil the pasta in a pan of salted water for around 10 minutes or until it is al dente. Drain and set aside. Cut the feta cheese into 1-2cm cubes (not necessary if you are using crumbled feta) and set aside. Wash the rocket and trim stalks if they are too long or tough.
For the dressing, whisk together the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice and oil in a jug and set aside.
Once the veggies are done, pull them out and allow them to cool for about 15 minutes. The salad is nice warm or cold so if you want to prepare the veggies and pasta the day before you can. Once cooled, put the veggies in a large bowl and carefully mix in the pasta, half of the rocket, the feta cheese and the dressing (start with half and add more to taste). Season with salt and pepper. Once well mixed, place the remaining rocket in a neat pile on top of the salad and serve. Great accompaniment to meat or served alone for lunch or a snack. For a more substantial meal, top with a sliced, grilled chicken breast.
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Quote above reproduced from Hélène Dujardin, Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling, page 145. Copyright © 2011 by Wiley Publishing, Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana. This material is reproduced with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.