Zucchini and Yellow Squash Piccata with Roasted Asparagus
What are you doing making a "spring" / "summer" dish in winter you ask? That's not very Sustainable Spotlight of me, is it? Except, it kind of is...
But first, let me set the stage on why you need to make this dish; immediately! I LOVE piccata but when I went vegan, all the recipes I found wanted me to use faux chicken. As I've mentioned, I like to sprinkle in processed vegan "meats" intermittently, but I'd much rather base a dish solely on whole foods and vegetables. Also, I can't stand faux chicken, so there's that too.
Inspired by the fried vegetables you get from the fair (yes, truly - can you tell I'm from the Midwest?), I thought why not on using squash, zucchini and eggplant as my base and pan fry them then coat them in the piccata glaze? With much trepidation, I ventured where no one (at least that I could find) ventured before. To my surprise, and delight of course, I stumbled upon probably the best piccata I've ever had heretofore. Now, I'm offering you the opportunity to delight in my country fair meets Italian fare dish too!
So, back to your burning question; "How in the world is this sustainable, Jamie?!"
Sustainability Spotlight: Climate shift has greatly altered our ability to grow, yield and harvest our food in the last 5 years. Only accelerating, climate shift has brought increases in natural events such as drought, floods, mudslides, hurricanes, tornadoes, freeze events, and wildfires. These events are occurring in areas where we have not had them with any frequency or with the severity of recent years. In areas where we harvest and grow our food, such as California and Florida specifically (coastal areas), climate shift has led to uncertainty. Uncertainty in the ability to meet food demand and regulate supply chain in the United States as a part of these events' impacts on agriculture.
Here's the good news, though, companies like AppHarvest are leading the way on developing large scale greenhouse farming in non-coastal, non-climate shift areas such as Appalachia. "...using up to 90% less water and the power of the sun for a crop that works even in an unpredictably harsh environment," the company can produce up to a 30x's yield of conventional farms and is a certified "B" corporation. How do they accomplish their commitments to the environment? Here's the (not short list, but I consolidated):
The greenhouse(s) use up to 80% less water vs. traditional farms by capturing and reusing rainwater (100% recycled rainwater).
Commitment to use no harsh pesticides or herbicides and offering a climate resilient environment by growing food in an indoor environment; there is a buffer against extreme weather events and pests that would necessitate the use of these chemicals. Added bonus: no agricultural runoff of those chemicals that would impact soils or adjacent waterways.
Less food waste due to a controlled environment; limiting spoilage.
While AppHarvest is utilizing their greenhouses to grow tomatoes (not featured in this recipe), the standard exists for greenhouse veggies. It's fairly easy to grow the veggies featured in this recipe (zucchini, squash and eggplant) in indoor environments. As we move through (what I will call) our agricultural sustainability revolution and offer more opportunities for greenhouse growth of "off-season" produce, we will start to re-imagine how we build and create food in our kitchens and for our families.
For now, this recipe most likely utilized veggies grown in Florida or California under "normal" commercial growing conditions, but if there is a crop that has been produced that results in gorgeous specimens of vegetables, I'll be grabbing them. All because even if my veggies traveled a little bit to get to me, and even if they aren't grown in a greenhouse so I can enjoy them "off-season" most sustainably, they are still a heck of a lot more sustainable to use and eat than animal products. And that, my friends, means everything. Taking any and all small steps possible to make this a sustainable world.
When you can, try and purchase organic or greenhouse grown, but in all cases, try and shift your mindset away from animal products and we will all take those baby steps together for sustainability.
1/2 zucchini (chunked)
1/2 summer squash (chunked)
1/2 small eggplant (chunked)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 tbsp vegan butter (divided)
3/4 cup vegetable broth
2 lemons (juiced)
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 tsp agave syrup
2 tsp capers (drained)
small handful fresh parsley (chopped)
1 bunch asparagus (trimmed)
salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder (to taste)
In a shallow dish, whisk flour, salt and pepper. Dredge vegetables; toss to coat all pieces and all sides.
Pre-heat oven to 410 degrees F; spread asparagus out in a single layer on a silpat sheet in a jellyroll pan and coat with cooking spray. Season with salt, pepper, onion and garlic powder. Slide pan into oven and roast asparagus for 10-12 minutes; remove when done.
While asparagus roasts, In a large skillet, heat 2 tbsp vegan butter over medium-high heat. Once the butter starts to froth and bubble, add all veggies and saute for ~8 minutes. Stir infrequently until all sides are crisp.
Once cooked, remove veggies from the pan and set aside on a plate (do NOT stack veggies into a bowl, they will start to steam and lose their nice exterior).
To the skillet you just removed the veggies, add broth, lemon juice, OJ and agave syrup. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and whisk for ~5 minutes until reduced (should coat the back of a spoon slightly once done). Be sure to whisk frequently or you can burn the sugars in the juices and turn your sauce bitter.
Last, add the remaining tbsp of vegan butter to the sauce in the pan; whisk till melted and remove the pan from the heat immediately.
Time to assemble! Put a layer of asparagus on the bottom of a plate (or bowl), top with crisped veggies, spoon sauce over veggies then finish with parsley and some capers. Serve immediately.
With love & hope for a better future for all of us - Jamie