When I went school for a semeseter in Spain, I lived with this 85 year old woman we all called Abuela (Grandma). Having been through a lot in her life, she was stingier than most of the other “parents” people were staying with. My first few days she treated me to mystery meat which was tough and gross and supposed to be a special treat! I come from Nebraska – land of tons of big animals on the prairie, and so I have come to learn a thing or two about how meat should taste and let me tell you, this was NOT good at all! While at her place, I lived on tortilla espanolas, fruit, vegetables and sardines. A little digression on the sardines. When I told her that I liked sardines, she became sardine happy and I literally ate them for lunch and dinner for a week. Every single day. Finally, after losing too much weight on this strange sardine diet, I had to tell her that something else would be okay! She seemed relieved though so I think she just somehow thought I actually wanted them all the time. Anyway, the frozen vegetables in Spain were delicious – usually there were eggplants and fennel and red peppers and all kinds of goodies. Abuela cooked them in lots of olive oil until they were soft and some of the veggies had a nice toasty doneness. YUM. I never did get sick of the Spanish frozen vegetables and she came to call me, “La De La Verduras” Basically, Vegetable Girl. Unfortunately, we do not have any good mixed vegetables here. Seriously – none. Whole Foods used to carry this excellent mix from France with similar vegetables to mine above, but with eggplant, rice and tomatoes as well. They were the only frozen mixed vegetables that I really liked and of course they’re gone. I’m thinking $6.99 per small package is the reason – I bought them every time they went on sale. The mix I made above is basically the same thing as the Spanish frozen vegetables, the ones from France, and the Italian vegetables I’m used to eating. This mix would also be fantastic with mushrooms and obviously the tomatoes and eggplant as well. I was trying to tone it down a little since I didn’t want to get ingredient happy and feel too intimidated to make this again…what with chopping time, price and all.
Another reason I like this vegetable mix so much is that my husband will eat them. It’s pretty amazing. At first he complained: “Ewwwww, I don’t like zucchini or fennel.” I said, “Wrong, you don’t like restaurant zucchini that’s hardly cooked, boring and flavorless. Cooked well zucchini takes the flavor of what it’s cooked with – it’s full of flavor, not chewy and boring. You don’t like raw fennel but you’ll LOVE it cooked.” How can someone not like raw fennel anyway? Well…you can’t please them all. My hubby chowed a huge portion of the vegetables and then ate more. I get really happy when I can get him to eat his vegetables! I feel like a proud mom:) My Dad, husband and I inhaled all of these vegetables in one meal, but I think it should serve more than three. We are all just pigs I guess.
- 1 bunch skinny asparagus (you could use fatter but just cut it into smaller bits)
- 1 fennel bulb
- 1 small zucchini
- 1/2 red pepper
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- parmigiano reggiano
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1 stem fresh rosemary – all the little leaves chopped
- fresh basil – depending on leaf size, about 2 TB chopped
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- butter (optional)
- Chop fennel – here is a handy video on how to get started if you’ve never cooked with fennel before (a note before watching – fennel is NOT anise, the video incorrectly calls it anise, and some stores label fennel as anise…like yams and sweet potatoes…still, it’s a good video) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Woq5xV7G_N0
- Cut or snap off the tough bottom off of the asparagus, then cut into 4s
- Thinly slice red pepper and cut in 1/2s or 1/3rds
- Thinly slice zucchini
- Heat skillet to medium-high heat and add enough butter (or olive oil) to coat the pan. I like to start with butter and then add olive oil as it needs it.
- Add all vegetables and cook about 25 minutes, stirring often. If it seems to be cooking too fast or burning, turn to medium heat – adding olive oil as needed
- Add juice of half lemon, garlic, rosemary and basil – cook another 5 minues or so or until all vegetables have softened and some have browned a little
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Add freshly grated parmigiano reggiano to each serving – it adds another happy flavor punch.