Thursday, 14 December 2006

Last Minute Solution

Sydney is really a great place for foodies – I don’t think that there is any other place in the world where you can get such good food for little money. Therefore, we are regular customers at our favourite Thai place and at the Chinese, the Taiwanese, the Vietnamese… you get the picture. There is only one drawback. Faster than you would ever imagine all the stuff in the fridge starts rotting. Call it an inability to estimate what two people can eat in a week or sheer shopping frenzy – after my usual Saturday afternoon trip to the Chinese market, I always get home loaded with fruits and veggies. Even with careful planning what to make out of it, at the end of the week there is always some item in the fridge that screams: “Eat me, right now, or I’ll go to waste!”

When I opened the fridge this time, there were several veggies looking rather scornfully at me from the bottom shelf: Two forgotten corn cobs, some very ripe tomatoes, a bunch of asparagus – slightly wrinkly at the end – and several opened and just half used cans.

After considering possible combinations, I decided to blanch some of the veggies first, then top it with tomato-based sauce béchamel and some feta cheese (also better used before it’s too late) and pop it into the oven for a couple of minutes. The result was tasty and colourful, and it didn’t look like a makeshift solution. The veggies had a good crunch and were held together nicely by the velvety béchamel sauce. With its deep orange colour it had an entirely new twist. And for someone who likes feta cheese as much as I do, the salty white chunks on top were almost the best part.

Spring Vegetables with béchamel sauce and feta topping

The ingredients

10-15 stalks of green asparagus (one and a half bunch)
2 corn cobs
4 roma tomatoes

1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
1-2 tablespoons tomato paste
Splash of milk
100 ml evaporated milk
2 ladleful of veggie cooking water
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
100-150 g feta cheese

Serves 2-3 people.

Wash and trim asparagus. Blanch the whole stalks in salted water for a couple of minutes depending on how crunchy you like your asparagus. With a sharp knife, scrape the corn kernels into the boiling water and let cook for another two minutes. (I don’t know if that’s the proper method to separate the kernels from the stem but that’s how I did it.)

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the veggies into a greased ovenproof dish and set aside. Don’t discard the water.

For the béchamel sauce, let the butter melt over medium heat, stir in flour and let roast until golden yellow. Add the tomato paste and roast a little longer. Using a wire whisk, stir in the cold milk and cold evaporated milk. Stir until there are no lumps left and let cook until the mixture thickens.

To get your desired consistency, add some of the water you used for blanching the veggies. I used two big ladleful. Season to taste with salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Spoon your tomato béchamel sauce over the veggies. Top with sliced tomatoes and diced feta cheese. Pop into the oven at 150 degrees Celsius until everything is just heated through. This should only take a couple of minutes as the feta cheese doesn’t melt anyway.

Serve with freshly cracked pepper and some fresh crusty sourdough bread. In case you have a hungry meat lover to feed, serve it alongside a steak or a grilled gourmet sausage.

The source

My own creation

The hint

You will probably end up with too much béchamel sauce. Using the veggie cooking water it will make the base for a nice soup the other day.

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