Procure a Vegetable Love
I have no patience for the "tossed green salad." In fact, I'm beginning to find it offensive--not unlike the way I feel about vegetarian restaurants that rely on their atmosphere instead of delivering fine fare. Meat, cheese, or nothing of the sort accompanying them, vegetables should be treated with respect, which is to say they should be lusty, spicy, and basted as preciously as a roast. I want a salad of a dozen tiny artichokes, three Roma tomatoes, green beans so fresh you can hear them crack from across the room, heavy cream, and a handful of California walnuts. "A dozen rosy potatoes... carrots sliced as thin as hairs," MFK Fisher says. "What in peacetime prevents us from such play?"
Not that we're in a "peacetime" of any sort, but maybe a politically-correct-time, a time of hyper-health, or some other condition that at times makes eating vegetables a crude, somber task. Go wild. Roast a bulb of garlic, mash it with a boiled beet or two. A shepherds pie, with rhubarb, peas, squash, and nasturtiums. Like a gourmet burger, try fetishizing broccoli: imagine, battered or baked, it's floret crusted in cumin, arranged on your plate like a Smurf forest.
Asheley and I went to the Vinegar Hill House down by the Con Ed station a couple of weeks ago. "Hill of the wood of the berries." She is a fine dining companion, no more a purist than a sybarite, and though she eats meat, does not prepare it at home because it freaks her out to handle "an isolated part of something, rather than the whole thing." I found her sitting at the bar over a gin and tonic (no gluten, either) and I ordered a Jameson. She was wearing a '40s butterfly-coat, her long blond hair hanging like a cape. We sat at the bar until they insisted we take take our seats. When the server came Asheley asked for the trout ravioli, and then laughed when he panicked.
"There is no trout ravioli! I made it up," she said. "I've always wanted to do that."
She got grilled chicken served in a cast iron pot, and a twice-baked butternut squash. I got foie gras, lentils, pickled onions. And all of it was enjoyed on a level plane, tit for tat, thigh for stalk.
I made twice-baked butternut squash at home a few days ago, and a leg of lamb. The squash is as easy as it sounds: bake at HI-heat until soft, scoop flesh into a bowl and mix with herbs, breadcrumbs, butter, sour cream, coconut milk, whatever. Then spoon it back into the squash rinds (they'll keep their shape) and bake a little longer.