At last Saturday’s buffet, one of the dishes that I liked did not have any meat. Even I surprised myself. The dish consisted of zucchini and white sauce. When I asked Alex later what it was, she said it was roasted vegetables with Bechamel sauce and it wasn’t even in the planned menu. I was so smitten that, with Alex’s help, I did a home version. I prepped the vegetables and pan-roasted them; Alex did the sauce.
Is our home version the same as the one served at the buffet? No. For three reasons.
First, instead of zucchini, I chose a medley of eggplant, bell pepper, broccoli and cauliflower.
Second, our sauce is thicker because that’s how I like it. But here’s the kicker. We ran out of cream and milk so I suggested to Alex that she use buttermilk instead. Buttermilk to make Bechamel sauce? Oh, yes, the result is just terrific.
Third, it was a warm and humid day (it did rain but only long after we finished our meal) so no one wanted to turn on the oven to roast the vegetables. Roasting them in a pan on the stovetop was the solution. If I have to guess, the zucchini at the buffet was probably drizzled with olive oil before going into the oven. I pan-roasted my vegetables with butter.
For the Bechamel Sauce
To finish the dish
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
Cook the vegetables
- Discard the top of the eggplant. Split into halves lengthwise than cut on the bias into slices about half an inch thick.
- Core and de-seed the bell pepper, then dice.
- Heat the butter in a frying pan.
- Add the eggplant, bell pepper, broccoli and cauliflower to the hot butter. Over high heat, toss a few times until the edges start to brown. Sprinkle in salt and pepper. Continue cooking until the vegetables are just done. DO NOT overcook. Remember too that the eggplant will continue to cook in the residual heat so stop cooking before the eggplant slices turn too soft. Turn off the heat and leave the pan uncovered.
Make the Bechamel Sauce
- Smash and peel the garlic cloves. Mince to make a paste.
- Heat a sauce pan. Add the butter and garlic. Swirl the pan to distribute the garlic paste in the butter as it melts.
- Dump the flour into the butter and stir. Make a blonde roux by cooking the butter-flour mixture for about five minutes over medium heat.
- Pour the buttermilk in a thin stream, stirring as you pour. Cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens. Set the heat to low and continue cooking for about five minutes to remove any flour-y taste. Off the heat, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Assemble the dish
- Pour the cooked vegetables into a serving bowl. Pour the Bechamel sauce over them. Sprinkle the grate Parmesan on top. Turn on your kitchen torch (or place the bowl under a preheated broiler) and brown the top of the dish.
- Serve the pan-roasted vegetables with Bechamel sauce at once.
If you cooked this dish (or made this drink) and you want to share your masterpiece, please use your own photos and write the cooking steps in your own words.