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.

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Pecan-whole grain tarator sauce

Pecan tarator sauce

I was thinking about tarator sauce the other day. The word means different things to different people, and contains different ingredients in various locations around the globe. For me, a tarator sauce is a combination of nuts, bread-soaked-in-water and seasonings. It is a thing of wonder! These unlikely elements combine to form something subtly flavored, smooth, creamy, and completely dairy-free! At first, I generally used pine nuts and white bread, garlic and lemon. Definitely delicious. Then I used almonds, because they’re also lovely and much cheaper. I made this savory vanilla sauce, for instance. And a tarator sauce can make the base of a creamy soup. My version of Jane Austen’s white soup combines an almond tarator sauce with white beans and cauliflower.

I’ve always thought of tarator as a pale ivory concoction, and I’ve generally used pale nuts and white bread. Well, the other day, faced with a very tasty but rapidly aging loaf of whole grain bread, I thought, why not make a tarator sauce with that? And I used pecans, because they have a wonderful distinctive flavor. And I used balsamic instead of lemon juice, for a little depth. And then I added roasted garlic, thyme, and rosemary, because it seemed to need all those things. Turned out delicious! We ate it as a sort of dip for butternut squash-pecan dumplings. But tarator sauce is very versatile. It’s good with french fries, or on roasted vegetables, or as a dip for anything you can think of dipping in it.

Here’s Soul Sauce from Cal Tjader

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