I think Julia Child would love Bemidji, the community in northern Minnesota I’ve called home for 11 years. I never had the opportunity to meet the woman who brought French cooking into American home kitchens, but I’ve read a lot about her and I’ve visited with people who knew the wonder woman who suggested good fun, good food and good flavor go hand-in-hand in the kitchen.
I know Julia Child demanded fresh ingredients. She would be thrilled with the two farmers markets we have in our community, offering shoppers appreciative of good food prime pickings from local gardens.
She might like to teach some cooking classes in the community kitchen at Harmony Co-op, centrally located downtown just a few blocks from the farmers markets. She’d love to visit some of the community gardens where families have an opportunity to grow some of their own food.
I’m sure she’d be amazed at all of the sharing, caring and friendly people who live in Bemidji. One of those people is Doris Swedmark, who spends 8 hours a day working in her vegetable garden that measures 30 feet x 60 feet. All of her hard work pays off — her cabbage won a blue ribbon at the county fair this year. She keeps plenty of plastic bags on hand, ready to share the bounty of her garden with others.
I am one of the lucky people to come home from Doris Swedmark’s garden with a load of
vegetables. She yanked some enormous orange mangle beets from the soil, picked some beans, carved out a chubby red cabbage with her very sharp knife, pulled some carrots, cut some kale and gathered some tomatoes. She invited me to grab some fennel and dill on my way out of the garden.
I’m not sure what Julia Child would do with all of these fresh vegetables — ratatouille, maybe? I did know what to do with my treasured loot.
I pulled out my Clay Coyote cazuela and started in on a Greek-style vegetable dish.
I weighed out a pound of beans from one of the bags, chopped an onion, minced some garlic, squeezed the seeds from some tomatoes and chopped them up, and diced a small zucchini. I sauteed the vegetables in olive oil in the cazuela, then added some water, tomato paste and a bundle of mixed fresh herbs that are commonly found in Greek cooking.
I do have luck growing herbs when I tuck them in around my flowering perennials. It took a quick trip around my gardens to collect Italian parsley, oregano, Greek basil, rosemary, thyme and marjoram. I tied the sprigs together with kitchen twine, feeling very Julia Child-like, and tucked it into the mixture in the cazuela. And then, into the oven it went for about 40 minutes. As it bubbled in the heat, a wonderful aroma wafted through my kitchen.
I planned to serve the Greek-Style Vegetables with orzo. None in the pantry. I chose some brown rice Caserecce instead. It was a good pick.
You could top the baked dish with crumbled feta cheese before serving. I didn’t. The meal was aromatic, satisfying and delicious. It’s not French, but I’ll bet Julia would approve.
Today is Julia Child’s birthday. If she was living, she’d be 100 years old. Celebrate with good fun, good food and good flavor in the kitchen — French or not. Bon Appetit!
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
- 3 chubby cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound of green beans, topped and tailed (trimmed) and cut into 2-inch pieces
- 2 cups seeded and chopped tomatoes
- 1 small zucchini, chopped
- 1 cup water
- 1 teaspoon vegetable or beef soup base
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
- 1 sprig each of: Italian parsley, oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, marjoram
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 2 tablespoons minced parsley, for serving
- 1 cup crumbled Greek feta cheese, optional
In a large skillet or cazuela, heat olive oil. Add onions and saute until tender. Add garlic and beans and saute. Add tomatoes, zucchini, water, soup base, tomato paste and lemon zest. Stir to mix. Bring mixture to a boil. Tie sprigs of fresh herbs together with kitchen twine. Tuck them into the bubbling mixture. Cover the skillet or cazuela with aluminum foil and bake in preheated 375-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from oven. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with minced parsley. Serve with cooked orzo or pasta of choice. Offer feta cheese at the table. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
P.S. Greek-Style Vegetables is one of the dishes I’ll be preparing on Saturday, August 18th during my cooking demonstration at 11:00 at the Lakes Area Farmers Market in Detroit Lakes.