A long-time resident of Methow, Helen Zahn, passed away this autumn at the age of 91. Her obituary, printed in the Nov. 4 edition of the Methow Valley News was beautifully written — I enjoyed reading about Helen’s “bubbly personality” and good cooking.
I met Helen in late June of 2012. I stood near the town of Methow along Highway 153, snapping photos of a derelict suspension bridge. A car rolled to a stop and the driver, Helen, recollected the years she spent walking across the bridge. She told me her and her brothers would run back and forth across the bridge, and as a young mother her little ones would scamper across while she carried bags of groceries. I remember looking to the raging water below the cabled walkway and imagining the scene.
Helen said she visited the old schoolhouse on Gold Creek and told the surprised owners, Bill and Jennifer Duguay, that she used to play in the schoolyard there.
As the weather turns, warm savory comfort food at the end of the day is a welcome treat. One of our favorites is roasted vegetables over a bed of creamy polenta smothered with tomato sauce. This delicious meal is easy to make, and is wonderful as both breakfast and dinner. To begin, toss 10 sliced tomatoes and one sliced, peeled, cubed eggplant with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and roast at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. Finely chop one onion and sauté for 15 minutes on low heat with olive oil until translucent. To the cooked onions, add four minced cloves of garlic and the roasted tomatoes and eggplant. Mash with a spatula until sauce forms. Add ¼-cup red wine, a tablespoon of honey, a tablespoon of herbs de provence, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally until thickened, about 30 minutes.
While sauce simmers, chop one carrot, one zucchini and 10 mushrooms into equal-sized pieces. Toss vegetables with olive oil and seasoning salt. Roast for 20 minutes at 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove roasted veggies from oven and add to sauce in saucepan to finish cooking, about 10 minutes.
I use premade polenta. It is usually located in the rice aisle of the grocery store, and comes in a tube. Place a stick of butter in saucepan. Break up pre-cooked polenta into pan. Add a half cup of cream. Keep stirring and mashing polenta over medium heat until heated through and well mixed. Salt and pepper to taste.
To serve: Mound polenta on plate, smother with tomato sauce and roasted vegetables. Top with shredded parmesan and fresh basil and parsley.
A final exciting note. History was made last week as Kamala Harris was selected by American voters to be America’s first female vice president. I am looking forward to watching this vice president pave the way for young girls. I can picture my high school politics teacher, Mrs. Clark, bouncing on her toes, her finger tips pressing into her chin as she addressed her students excitedly, “Politics is fascinating!”