The Healthy Season

The Healthy Season

Two recipes Moreton Neal says you can feel good about.

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Photo by James Stefiuk
Photo by James Stefiuk

Paleo, Whole 30, Eat to Live, low carb, gluten free. If you haven’t heard of these diet trends by now, you must living under a rock, and I envy you. So many of my family members, not to mention friends, are committed to one or another of these regimes, and cooking something that pleases them all is a major challenge.

Their goal, of course, isn’t to annoy. They are making an effort to eat as healthily as possible and shed some body fat while they’re at it. Whether you want to take pressure off creaky joints, address inflammation, unplug arteries, increase energy or just look better in a bikini, each of these diets encourages minimizing bad food and maximizing good food. Therein lies the problem: Except for the usual subjects – sugar and white flour – they don’t agree on what’s bad.

What they all have in common is a high consumption of fresh vegetables, which, luckily, is the very best part of summer eating.

One of my favorite summer dishes is a vegetable tian, basically a gratin or casserole without the addition of fattening cream and breadcrumbs. This recipe for a classic Provencal dish includes a small sprinkling of cheese on top, but doesn’t suffer without it if dairy is off limits.

The other recipe is a recent discovery, a savory blackberry sauce/condiment and a very different way to enjoy blackberries. It’s delicious along with meat, especially pork. Personally, I love it on crackers and a sharp cheese or just by itself on buttered toast. But then, I, unlike most everyone I know, am not on a diet.

Summer Vegetable Tart

2 large yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 large garlic cloves, minced
2-3 medium zucchini (or 1 zucchini and 1 yellow squash)
Small Yukon gold potatoes or Japanese eggplant, equivalent in diameter to zucchini
5-7 tomatoes, equivalent in diameter to zucchini
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme
1⁄2 cup, more or less, grated Gruyere or Parmesan cheese

Saute onions in 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until softened, but not browned. Add a sprinkle of salt along with the garlic, and cook another minute or two. Spread the onion/garlic mixture in the bottom of a baking dish, about 9 by 13 inches.

Slice the zucchini, potatoes or eggplant, and tomatoes into circles of equal thickness, about 1⁄4 inch. Arrange the vegetables in rows, alternating zucchini, tomatoes and potatoes or eggplant, slanting them like dominos. Sprinkle the vegetables generously with more salt, pepper and fresh thyme. Drizzle with olive oil.

Cover with aluminum foil and bake in the oven at 375 F for 30 minutes. Uncover and continue baking for another 30 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Sprinkle the cheese over top during the last 10 minutes of baking. Let the dish sit for a while, up to several hours before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Blackberry-Sage Sauce

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Photo by James Stefiuk

2 Tbsp. minced shallot or sweet onion
1 Tbsp. butter
2-3 cups blackberries
3-4 Tbsp. honey
1 Tbsp. minced fresh sage leaves
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. ketchup
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of salt
1⁄4 tsp. black pepper

In a medium-sized saucepan, sauté the shallots or onions in the butter until they soften. Add all the remaining ingredients, leaving out a dozen or so blackberries. Simmer the sauce for 8 to 10 minutes until syrupy, stirring and mashing berries every few minutes. Remove from heat and cool a few minutes. Puree roughly in a blender (just a few seconds). Add the uncooked berries and serve at room temperature with grilled pork, ham or roast chicken.

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Moreton Neal is an author and interior designer who lives in Chapel Hill. She is a lifelong foodie, having co-founded LA Residence in 1976.