Tuesday, July 7, 2009

In Praise of Briami

The highest and best purpose for vegetables must be briami, a Greek oven-roasted vegetable dish introduced to me by a message board friend, Evelyn from Greece. To the carnivorous American mind, roasted veggies are a side, a Mom-concocted conspiracy to fill the third of the plate between protein and starch. Briami, however, is sheer vegetable heaven, suitable for a main dish. I can write this because it worked in my family.

Here's my version, based on Evelyn's original, which can be found at Recipezaar (see prior post).
Briami Chez Moi

4 zucchini, peeled and trimmed into 1-inch chunks
4 red potatoes, peeled and trimmed into 1-inch chunks
4 Roma tomatoes, or maybe more, cut into 1-inch wedges (if heirloom tomatoes are available, use them! the result will be pure ambrosia)
1/2 a head of garlic (I used the most beautiful fresh farmer's market garlic imaginable, so fresh it actually dripped with garlic juice!)
1 large onion, peeled and cut into 6 or 8 wedges
a few ounces of shredded Parmesan cheese (or, if you have the good stuff on hand, chunk up a few ounces)
3/4 cup olive oil, or a little bit less if this amount just seems too indulgent
1/4 cup water, or slightly more if using additional vegetables
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon dried oregano, or fresh herbs like basil, oregano, thyme and mint

1. Preheat the oven to 425. Line an aluminum half-sheet pan with foil and spread out vegetables. Top with cheese. Pour olive oil and water, seasonings and herbs over all and toss until thoroughly coated. Roast for at least an hour, stirring every so often, just to monitor that all is cooking evenly. Your house will smell so good at this point. If your windows are open, expect neighbors to drop by unexpectedly. Small children will ask what you're cooking and will probably eat a sample. Pets will be driven mad by the aroma of garlic.

The oil soaks up the flavorings and the water steams the vegetables. I served this over rotini; couscous would be nice as well. If you must have protein, a white-fleshed fish simply prepared would be delicious, or maybe some leftover cold roast chicken. A brainschweiger and baguette is an indulgent, but delightfully kid-pleasing choice.

Leftovers, should there be any, can be turned into breakfast (or lunch or supper) hash. Just chop a bit finer, cook in some water in a nonstick skillet (goodness knows, there should be enough oil leftover). When it is warmed through, crack an egg or two into the bubbling mixture, cover and let fry until desired doneness. You will need to plow the lower 40 after such a meal, but it will be ever so worth it.

No comments: