UMAMI MART MATSURI FESTIVAL


Went over to Chuchoter's place in Oakland the other night- she and her husband Tom have been super hustling with work and so I don't get to see them much these days. But I was in the area and when I called her, she mentioned going out to the famous Fenton's for ice cream, so I couldn't resist tagging along.

After we got back, I had a few hours to kill before I had to get to a party in SF, so I started trolling through their fridge to make them dinner. They both had work to do (on a Sunday!) and don't have much time in general to cook these days.

Her wonderful mama had brought over a TON of vegetables over the weekend from Monterey Market, a Berkeley grocer long run by a Japanese-American family selling produce by local farms and purveyors at reasonable prices. Stacy asked me to please do something with all the vegetables in her fridge- can't turn down such an offer!

When I opened the fridge I nearly peed my pants in excitement. It was like a treasure trove of garden delights- gorgeous vegetables and fruits were overflowing from the shelves and bins, begging to cook with them. "Kayoko! Kayoko! Pick me! Pick me!" I seriously heard them calling for me, I swear.

When I say overflowing, I'm not joking. The bins were chock full of greens, golds and reds, and all the vegetables took over the middle shelf as well. Brussel sprouts, basil, cilantro, green onions, cucumber, arugula, two kinds of lettuce, radishes, broccoli... it just didn't end.





I started just picking out bags of vegetables one by one. This was seriously dreamy- like being at the farmer's market but not actually having to go. Don't get me wrong, I love going to the market, but don't you wish sometime that you woke up and dreaded having to go to the store? Yah you have.



So I rolled up my sleeves, shooed Chuchoter and Tom out of the kitchen and got to work. They have a fridge door full of condiments (mustards, Annie's dressings, ketchup, the basics), but I just wanted to taste the bounty of spring and keep extra sauces to a minimum.



First up, roasted vegetables- yellow peppers, zucchini, asparagus, onion.



Preheat oven to 375˚. Chop up garlic, zucchini and peppers. Drizzle olive oil over all, and mix around with your hands with salt and ground pepper. Put in oven for 30 minutes.



I was looking through Chuchoter's Chez Panisse Vegetable cookbook. It's awesome!! I must get myself a copy. Anyhow, I was looking through the onion section and decided to make the very simple Spicy Roasted Onions (can't find the exact recipe online but that's the gist).

Just cut yellow onion about 1/4 inch thick, drizzle olive oil over it, salt and pepper. Put in 375˚ oven for 30 minutes.



While all that was in the oven, I started making salad. What kind of lettuce, you ask? Oh, red leaf, romaine with a sprinkling of arugula- you know, whatevers in the fridge. Uhhh... DREAMY. Added chopped red onions and tomatoes too.



Chuchoter, bless her soul, also had all these grains in her pantry, so we decided to make quinoa. Neither of us had ever attempted this before, so it was an adventure. Did you know you have to toast the quinoa before adding water to it? Not sure which recipe Chuchoter used, but that's what it had us do.



Took the zucchini and peppers out, mixed it about a little, and put it back in the oven. After about 10 minutes, I took it out again and added the asparagus on top, drizzled more oil over it, and put it all in with the oven on broil for 10 minutes.



While that's happening, we worked on the quinoa (add water and slowly simmer) and marinate the onions in a olive oil/vinegar/red pepper flake concoction. Let's say it was 2 parts oil, 1 part vinegar/ quarter teaspoon of red pepper. The recipe called for sherry vinegar, but all we had was balsamic, which was fine. Mix all this together and drizzle over the onions and let it sit for 20 minutes.

By the time the asparagus are roasted al dente (about 10 minutes in the broiler, but keep it in until it cooks to your liking), everything should be ready to go. Here's our spread- DELIGHTFUL!!!



This had been a scorching day where it got to be an uncharacteristic 90˚ out- in April! A light vegetable dinner was exactly what the weather called for. We added the quinoa into the vegetables and lets it soak up all the juices. (I'm still trying to master the art of roasting peppers, as it tends to get watery after roasting. Anyone have any advice?)

The onions were a huge hit- the vinegar added a tart freshness to the sweet roasted onions. Also, the tomatoes were super sweet and totally reminded me of Italy. I don't think I've ever had tomatoes that good in the States.

Of course I found some Meyer lemons rolling around in the fridge, so we sliced those up and squeezed it over everything. All in all, this was a healthy, impromptu home-cooked meal that all of us desperately had been craving. Thanks to the Chuchoter and Tom for letting me invade your fridge!

Please excuse the poor quality of the photos, all I had was the iPhone! What's hiding out in the back of your fridge? To feature your fridge on UM's Fridgin' Out, email umamimart@gmail.com
Column: Fridgin Out
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