Grilled vegetables and pecan tarragon sauce

Roasted beets & mushrooms

We’ve been watching the Olympic trials at work, on a big television above the bar. The sound is turned all the way down, and for some reason, in this way, it becomes the most beautiful drama. The expressions on the athletes’ faces are so raw and honest – pure, distilled emotion. It reminds me of silent films, when the actors’ gestures and expressions had to tell the story, except that this is entirely unstudied. It’s hard to tell at first who has won and who has lost, because the faces are oddly similar – anguished, ecstatic, exhausted. Their faces are like children’s faces in delight and sorrow – undulled and unguarded. It’s very emotional! I have to stop myself from getting weepy right there at the host stand! I love the idea of working very hard for one thing, and putting so much emotion and energy into it. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately – it’s good to have a grand project in your life.

When I was little we lived in England one summer, during the Olympics. To my shame, I remember being actually bewildered that the announcers spoke more about English athletes than Americans. Didn’t everybody in the world care more about our superior American athletes even than their own? Didn’t they? Heh heh. With independence day drawing on apace, it’s probably a good time to examine our place in the world as Americans and as human beings. Luckily for you I have to go to work in a short while, so I’ll talk about grilling vegetables instead. We grilled beets, mushrooms, and potatoes. Of course you could grill any vegetables you like, but I recommend this combination. The beets and mushrooms have a nice juiciness, everything is crispy, earthy, smoky and delicious. I like a simple marinade for grilled vegetables. Olive oil, vinegar, fresh herbs and garlic. I added some nigella seeds because I just got them for the first time and I’m very excited about them! But if you can’t find them you could live without. We also sauteed the beet greens with some chard, and I used zatar spices, because I just bought sumac, and I’m very excited about that, too!! And the pecan tarragon tarrator sauce is a lovely, creamy, vegan, subtly flavored sauce that goes very sweetly with the earthy grilled vegetables. Malcolm ate his grilled vegetables on toast, and he made it into Darth Vador’s Tie Fighter. (serving suggestion)

Beet tie fighter

Here’s a little film of Louis Armstrong playing Stuttin with some Barbecue, and dancing with Velma Middleton.


3 beets, peeled and sliced into 1/3 inch rounds
10 oz mushrooms, cut in half if they’re large
5 medium-sized potatoes, cut lengthwise into wedges

olive oil
sherry vinegar
fresh herbs (basil, thyme, sage, rosemary, marjoram, savory…)
1 t nigella seeds
2 garlic cloves, minced

In 2 large, flat pans, arrange the beets and mushrooms in single layers. Pour over enough olive oil to lightly coat everything (a few tablespoons should do it) Sprinkle herbs over, and a few teaspoons of vinegar. I used sage, rosemary and thyme with sherry vinegar on the mushrooms, and savory, marjoram and basil with balsamic on the beets, but you can use any combination you like, or just mix it all together and pour it over. (You don’t really need two kinds of vinegar, I was just having fun!) Stir in the minced garlic – one clove per pan. Leave for an hour or more, turning the vegetables carefully from time to time.

For the potatoes – boil a pot of salted water. Drop the potatoes in and boil for about 5 minutes, till they’re just starting to get tender on the outside. Drain, let cool a minute or two, and then throw them into the marinade with the mushrooms. I added another splash of olive oil on the potatoes.

When the grill is hot, arrange the vegetables in a single flat layer. We did beets first, with mushrooms all around the outside. Cook them till they’re as done as you like them, obviously, but I think they’re best when they get nice and charred and crispy. The mushrooms will get a lovely dark brown color. The potatoes should get crispy outside, and soften up completely inside.


3/4 cups pecans, toasted
1 garlic clove – toasted or roasted (remember to make a hole in the skin first, so it doesn’t explode!)
1 small slice bread – soaked in water, then squeezed dry
1/4 cup olive oil
2 t sherry vinegar
squeeze of lemon juice
1 – 2 T fresh tarragon, chopped
1/4 t smoked paprika
salt & pepper
water to thin

Combine the pecans, garlic, tarragon, vinegar, lemon juice, and paprika in the blender, and process till it’s coarse and crumb-like. Add the olive oil with the machine running, and process till smooth. Add water, up to 1/2 cup, till the sauce is creamy and just as thick as you like it. Season with salt and pepper. Taste to adjust for tarragon, vinegar, or lemon.


1 medium-sized bunch greens – a combination of beet greens and chard is pretty
washed, drained, and roughly chopped. About 4 cups, uncooked
2 T olive oil
3 scallions, washed and chopped, mostly white parts
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t sesame seeds
1/2 t red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 t thyme (Slighly less if you use dried)
1/2 t oregano
1/2 t. sumac
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, chopped in half, or 1 tomato roughly chopped
dash of balsamic
salt and plenty of pepper

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the garlic, scallions, sesame seeds, red pepper flakes, thyme and oregano, and cook till the garlic just starts to brown.

Add all the greens and stir till they’re coated with oil and spice. Add about 1/3 cup water and the sumac. Stir and fry till the greens are wilted. You can cover for about a minute.

Add the tomatoes, and stir till they’re just starting to soften.

Add a dash of balsamic and salt and pepper, and serve.


7 thoughts on “Grilled vegetables and pecan tarragon sauce

  1. You can grow Nigella in the garden (at least, you can over here) and collect your own seed. The flowers are very pretty.

  2. I love nigella seeds! They have a flavor reminiscent of one of the flavors of old fashioned jelly beans, but I’m not sure which color. Try scattering some seeds in your garden. They have the most beautiful blue fresh flowers and dried seed heads. You can collect the seeds and will never have to buy nigella again.

  3. Thank you TFD and Lynn D!! I’m very excited to try to grow nigella now.

    And I wonder which jelly bean. I’ll go have a smell and see if I can detect. Must be one of the spicy ones!!

  4. Pingback: Zucchini chickpea kofta | Out of the Ordinary

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