I’ve been saturating myself in California history. I would love to have more time to read, but I’m slowly making my way through Kevin Starr’s multi-volume history of California, “Americans and the California Dream.”
When I opened my farm-fresh produce box this week I immediately grabbed my camera. I’m not always the most observant, but this week’s palette was so beautiful I didn’t just notice, I also flashed to a passage I’d just read.
“In the luxuriance of a bowl of grapes set out in ritual display, in a bottle of wine, the soil and sunshine of California reached millions for whom that distant place would henceforth be envisioned as a sun-graced land resplendent with the goodness of the fruitful earth.”
There are many aspects of California living stressful and not at all inviting, but when it comes to agriculture, we are rich! Unfortunately I sometimes think we are so saturated with variety that maybe we are just a little spoiled. Occasionally I pull out a favorite mini-tirade about the pitfalls of taking our abundance for granted.
Eating around the color wheel is one of the games I play to prevent falling into a produce rut. I eat a lot of greens. You probably do, too. It’s just nice to mix it up a bit! Did you take a look at those grapes, figs, eggplant and purple onion? Royal colors for regal eating, I’d say.
You’re probably already very familiar with the claims that grapes and red wine (as well as peanuts and some berries) are heart-healthy due to the fat-soluble compound resveratrol. In animal studies resveratrol inhibits the growth of cancer cells. I was glad to see some purple grapes included.
And I love figs–beautifully in season right now! Figs are tremendous sources for calcium, magnesium and fiber, as well as having the reputation as a natural sweetener. The Japanese diet utilizes figs to reduce high blood pressure and high blood sugar.
The purples are simply good for you!
They include nutrients that improve the absorption of calcium and minerals. We sometimes forget that without a wide variety of micronutrients our bodies may not be able to fully utilize even the best of fruit and vegetables. The purple fruit and vegetables in my produce box are known to help lower LDL cholesterol, boost immunity, fight inflammation and are packed with a host of other energy and health and well-being efficiencies.
So tonight’s dinner represented the best of the produce box and the purples all came together in one giant fresh salad. We mesquite roasted the eggplant and purple onion with some of the last of our summer squash. A little olive oil mixed in, the vegetables were added to the grill and cooked until tender. A few of the figs were cooked lightly on the stove top with just a splash of fig-infused balsamic vinegar.
I prepared a nice mix of greens for the bed of the salad, and placed plenty of vegetables, with beautiful eggplant and purple onion, cut grapes, and a dollop of figs lightly on top. I made a last-minute decision to add a generous cup of chickpeas for protein, but had I been thinking thematically I could have gone for purple-red kidney beans. Maybe it worked better with the contrast color of the chickpeas. I also think the chickpeas added a milder taste than kidney beans, and the eggplant and roasted onion were sweet, but bold.
Mixed with a very light fresh lemon vinaigrette it was just about perfect. If I’d been serving to guests I would have gone for a little feta. I could almost taste it, but I didn’t feel that we absolutely needed it tonight, so instead of those calories, I added in a few calories with crunch, fresh croutons.
It was delicious! I love to encourage eating well, so I would also eagerly invite you to consider a colorful direction if you’re in need of a boost! There’s a lot of beauty in nature’s food palette. Think of your plate as the frame for a beautiful piece of art!
Saturday ushers in the first day of fall–and for me, a new produce box. I wonder what colors I’ll be eating next week?