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Little vegetables, big show.

Little vegetables, big show

"Baby vegetables' is what restaurants andproduce markets call immature versions of vegetables traditionally harvested when more fully developed. Gardeners often call them thinnings.

Whatever you call them, these Lilliputiansof the greengrocer's shelf are appealing to look at. But are they worth paying a higher price, or accepting a diminished harvest? For looks, yes. For taste, it's a matter of opinion: many people find immature vegetables as flavorful as full-grown ones, but more tender. They're definitely sweeter, because their sugar content is higher.

June, July, and August are the monthswhen the most varieties of baby vegetables are available. But because more growers are experimenting with them, almost anything might show up at any season. If you don't see baby vegetables in your market, ask your produce dealer to order them for you.

To show off these tiny gems, we suggesttwo simple but eye-catching presentations. One is an eat-at-your-own-pace melted cheese raclette to serve indoors or out. The other works as a handsome party appetizer--or you could add some little ham sandwiches and consider it a meal.

Raclette with Baby Vegetables

3 to 4 quarts cooked mixed babyvegetables (for choices, see directions following or on page 182)

2 to 2 1/2 pounds raclette, fontina, orjarlsberg cheese

Freshly ground pepper


Arrange vegetables (warm or at roomtemperature) on a platter.

Cut cheese into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Fit asingle layer in a heavy 8- to 10-inch frying pan. Place pan over medium to medium-high heat (use a portable burner, or a barbecue or hibachi with a solid bed of medium coals: you should be able to hold your hand at grill level for 4 to 5 seconds). Cook until cheese melts, then scoop cheese from pan and pour, a bit at a time, onto plates to eat with individual servings of the vegetables. If you like, grind pepper onto melted cheese; serve with cornichons. As cheese is eaten, add more to pan to melt. Slide off heat if cheese starts to scorch. Makes 6 entree servings.

Baby Vegetables with Toasted Almond Skordalia

2 large egg yolks

2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 to 4 tablespoons dry white wine

1 cup olive oil or salad oil

Ground toasted almonds (directionsfollow)


3 to 4 quarts raw or cooked babyvegetables (for choices, see directions following or on page 182)

In blender or food processor, whirl yolks,garlic, lemon juice, sugar, and 1 tablespoon wine to blend. With motor running, pour in oil in a slow, steady stream; mixture will thicken to form a mayonnaise. Stir in almonds; if you want a thinner consistency for dipping, add more wine. Add salt to taste. Serve at once or cover and chill up to 2 days.

Arrange the vegetables in a basket or on aplatter; put sauce in a bowl alongside. Dip vegetables into sauce to eat. Makes 1 1/2 cups sauce, 12 appetizer servings.

Ground toasted almonds. In a 350| ovenbake 1/3 cup whole unblanched almonds in a 9- to 10-inch-wide pan until nuts are golden under skin (break 1 to test), about 8 minutes. Let cool. Whirl nuts in a food processor or blender until finely ground.

Baby vegetable basics . . . boiling and steaming

This information gives you the ideal sizeat which to purchase or harvest each kind of young vegetable, as well as tips on cleaning them and cooking suggestions. (For garden advice, see the May 1986 Sunset, page 282, and the September 1986 Sunset, page 188.)

It's important to start with vegetables ofthe best quality. Select ones that are fresh-looking, bright in color, firm, and free of blemishes. Eat as soon as possible; if it's necessary to store them, wrap in paper towels and seal in plastic bags, then refrigerate up to a day or two.

Two basic ways to cook baby vegetablesare to boil or steam; see listings for individual vegetables for doneness tests and cooking times.

To boil. Add cleaned vegetables (up to 1lb. at a time) to a pan filled with enough boiling water to cover. Boil green vegetables uncovered, other vegetables covered, just until tender when pierced. Drain. Serve hot or cool. If desired, immerse green vegetables in ice water until cool (to hold color); drain before serving.

To steam. Place vegetables (no more than3 layers deep) on a steamer rack placed about 1/2 inch above gently boiling water; cover. Cook until vegetables are tender when pierced, then lift them out. Serve hot or cool. If desired, immerse green vegetables in ice water until cool (to hold color); drain before serving.

Beans, corn, fennel, and okra are availableearly and midsummer. Other vegetables you're likely to find in cooler seasons or all year--beets, bok choy, carrots, cauliflower, leeks, potatoes, the many tender squashes, and turnips--are listed on page 182.

Beans (green, yellow). Choose beans 3 to4 1/2 inches long, about 1/4 inch wide. Rinse; trim off stem ends. Serve raw, boiled (takes 3 to 4 minutes), or steamed (takes 5 to 6 minutes).

Corn. Choose unhusked ears 5 to 7 incheslong, 3/4 to 1 inch wide. Pull off and discard husks and silks; trim stem end off cob. Serve raw, boiled (takes 3 to 5 minutes), or steamed (takes 6 to 8 minutes).

Fennel (also called finocchio or sweet anise).Choose fennel about 2 inches wide; lengths may vary, depending on method of harvesting. Rinse well, flushing out stalks. Trim off root ends. Leave whole or trim tops to fit cooking pan. Serve raw (break off stalks; tops are tough), boiled (takes 7 to 9 minutes), or steamed (takes 9 to 15 minutes).

Okra (red, green). Choose okra 1 to 2inches long, 1/2 inch wide. Rinse; cut off stem ends. Boil (takes 3 to 4 minutes) or steam (takes 5 to 6 minutes).

Photo: For a small party, here's a delectable variationon the cheese-and-potatoes of Swiss raclette: melt cheese on a burner or hibachi, then spoon it onto your choice of cooked baby vegetables

Photo: From a basket of petite vegetables,select bite-size crudites to swirl through toasted almond mayonnaise. Serve as an appetizer or salad lunch
COPYRIGHT 1987 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1987 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:includes recipes
Date:Jun 1, 1987
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