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Grilling Pizza

Most people think of summer as grilling season, but I have my grill going year-round. It’s easy, makes fewer dirty pans, and the food just tastes better with the smokey grill flavor. And, one of my favorite grill meals is pizza.

Pizza is already one of the most universally loved foods, and grilling it takes it to a new level of deliciousness. Most stores have ready to cook pizza dough, but you’ll find an easy dough recipe below.

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Easy Grilled Pizza

Turn on grill to medium heat. Roll out pizza dough to desired size on a floured surface. Sprinkle some corn meal on a baking sheet and transfer rolled out dough to sheet. Brush dough with olive oil.

Transfer dough to heated grill oiled side down. Cook for around minutes and remove from grill back onto the baking sheet with the grilled side up. Add desired toppings to pizza. Reduce grill heat to low and return topped pizza grill and cook with the grilled cover closed until done.

The fun part about pizza is that you get to  make it your own by adding your own family’s favorite toppings, or throw on the leftovers lurking in the fridge. This is the ultimate in quick, easy, versatile, and delicious. Mangia!!

 

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Easy Pizza Dough

courtesy of Food.com

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 14teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2cup lukewarm water (plus an additional 2 tbsp)
  1. Mix 1 cup of flour with all other ingredients.
  2. Gradually add 2nd cup of flour until it forms a ball. …
  3. Let the dough rest 10-15 minutes in a bowl covered with a dish towel or plastic wrap to keep it warm.

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All photos Julia A Reed

 

 

 

polenta pie credit Julia A Reed (7)

Bethany’s Luncheonette: Polenta Pie

I used to make cooked lunches twice a week for a handful of friends and neighbors. I called it Bethany’s Luncheonette. I would e-mail a menu out Sunday night for Tuesday and Wednesday. Everyone who ordered a lunch got it school-lunch-style in a reusable and returnable container labeled with their name in Sharpie on masking tape. It was fun – my friends loved it, and that made me very happy. Someday I will start it again.

Polenta pie was one of my favorites from Luncheonette. Since wheat doesn’t agree with me, this is my version of pizza. It’s super delicious hot or cold.

The recipe is a slight adaptation from the Moosewood Cookbook (a classic 1970’s vegetarian cookbook from a restaurant collective in Ithaca, New York). Thank you, Moosewood and Molly Katzen! Still such good recipes.

polenta pie credit Julia A Reed (4)This isn’t the fastest recipe out there, so if you’re pressed for time, don’t bake the polenta – instead just cook it the first time and serve it in a bowl with the veggies and cheese on top (see photo to left). But better yet, wait until you have time to do the whole thing through. You’ll be glad you did.

Please experiment with different toppings. Master the polenta crust, and then you have a base for any seasonal veggie toppings. See end of post for suggestions on variations.

I haven’t tried it, but I bet you could make a few polenta crusts ahead of time and freeze them for quick pizzas later on. Don’t forget that you’ll need a decent sized pot and a sturdy whisk to make a big batch of polenta.

Polenta Pie
Adapted from The New Moosewood Cookbook

Crust:
1 ½ cups coarse cornmeal (there are several Vermont and New Hampshire farms that sell cornmeal in local grocery stores)
1 t salt (or more to taste)
1 ½ cups cold water
2 cups boiling water (in a saucepan)
A little olive oil
One clove of crushed garlic (OPTIONAL)
A couple spoonfuls of grated Parmesan (OPTIONAL)

Topping:
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
½ a thinly sliced bell pepper (or use the whole one if you want)
10 mushrooms, sliced
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
4 to 5 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced
½ t dried oregano and/or thyme OR a handful of chopped fresh herbs
A few leaves chopped basil OR a spoonful of basil pesto (OPTIONAL)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound mozzarella, grated (feta, cheddar, goat cheese, etc. are good too.)
2 small (or 1 medium-sized) ripe tomato, sliced (OR, a few spoonfuls of tomato sauce if you have that on hand instead)polenta pie credit Julia A Reed

Directions:

  1. Combine cornmeal, salt, and cold water in a small bowl.
  2. Have the boiling water on the stove in a saucepan, and add the cornmeal mixture, whisking.
  3. Cook 15-20 minutes over low heat, stirring frequently. It will get very thick. Taste it for salt.
  4. Add garlic or Parmesan now, if using.
  5. Remove from heat, and let cool until handleable.polenta pie credit Julia A Reed (8)
  6. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Oil a 10-inch pie pan or a pre-heated skillet.
  7. Add the polenta, and use a rubber spatula and/or wet hands to form it into a smooth, thick crust over the bottom and sides of the pan.
  8. Spread the surface with olive oil, and bake uncovered for 45 minutes.
  9. While the crust bakes, heat 1 T olive oil in a medium-sized skillet. Add the onion, and sauté for 5 to 8 minutes, or until it begins to soften.
  10. Season with salt.
  11. Add the bell pepper, mushrooms and zucchini, and sauté until everything is tender, but not too soft. (Use your own judgment. There are no rules!)
  12. Add the garlic, herbs, and some black pepper, and sauté just a few minutes more. Add more salt if needed.
  13. Turn the oven to broil.
  14. Sprinkle half the cheese onto the bottom of the baked crust (okay if the crust is still hot), and add the tomato slices or tomato sauce.
  15. Spread the sautéed vegetables over the tomatoes, add the basil or pesto if using, and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.
  16. Broil until brown (about 5 minutes) and serve hot.

This is also tasty cold the next day, and it reheats well.

Your farmers market shopping list:
Coarse cornmeal
Garlic
A small onion
A bell pepper
2 small tomatoes
Mushrooms
A small zucchini or summer squash
Cheese
Fresh herbs

Some variations:
Sauteed or grilled onion & pepper plus Italian sausage
Chopped cooked spinach, sauteed or grilled onion, and Feta cheese
Or try any of these other toppings: grilled eggplant, roasted red pepper, cooked sliced asparagus, steamed or grilled broccoli or cauliflower, cooked or roasted kale, arugula, any fresh herbs lying around, sautéed leeks, etc.

Keep in mind that the broiling time is only to melt the cheese, so use precooked vegetables rather than raw ones. Using raw veggies will result in lukewarm crunchy veggies under melted cheese – gross!

Dedication: Written July 24, 2016, on the 100th anniversary of my grandmother’s birth. Happy birthday, Mimi! She was and will always be the best provider of food I know. I dedicate my food blogs to her and her mother, Olga.

– Bethany Fleishman

Photo credit: Julia A. Reed

CreamedSpinach

Mastering Perfect Spinach

When my friend Justin opened a restaurant in Maine, I fixated on his strategy to train kitchen staff: cooks would learn the best one or two ways to prepare each vegetable, so they’d be optimally equipped to deal on the fly with unpredictable supplies of local vegetables and a daily changing menu.

Let’s try this method together – and make perfect creamed spinach like skilled professionals.

Spinach can deserve its reputation, but it’s delicious when done right. Plus, it’s a nutritional powerhouse.

Why creamed spinach, specifically? Because it’s emerald green and perfect with a steak. And because like the names of our great-grandparents, food like this is coming into style again.

Thank you to the New York Times Cooking section for providing me the hankering and the recipe for creamed spinach. And to Justin for helping me make that original recipe more awesome and for taste testing.

–Bethany Fleishman,Vital Communities’ Transportation Program Assistant and former pastry chef, is contributing recipes this spring for our Valley Food & Farm program.

Creamed Spinach
Recipe adapted from The New York Times Cooking section

Ingredients

About 2 pounds spinach (from a local farm or garden – that’s the whole point!)Raw Spinach
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour (gluten free flour is fine as long as it has some thickening power)
1 cup milk (ideally whole, but use what you have)
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Bay leaf (OPTIONAL)
1 clove of garlic (OPTIONAL)
A healthy sprinkle of grated Parmesan or other sharp cheese (OPTIONAL)

Directions

1. Pick over the spinach to remove any debris, tough stems, and blemished leaves.

2. Rinse the spinach and shake dry.

3. Stuff the spinach into a saucepan with a quarter cup or so of water and cook on medium heat, stirring, until the spinach has wilted and turned bright green. You’re doing a combination sauté and steam here. (I like this method because it’s quick, and I have a completely unfounded suspicion that it preserves the most nutrients.)

4. Run the spinach under cold running water until chilled.

5. Grab the spinach by the handful and squeeze out the liquid. This is important to prevent watery creamed spinach.

6. Thoroughly blend the spinach in a food processor or blender. Set aside.Roux

7. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour, stirring with a whisk.

8. Add the milk, stirring rapidly with the whisk. For extra flavor, add a whole clove of garlic (or minced if you like a lot of garlic flavor) and a Bay leaf.

9. Add nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes until it thickens.

2Bowls10. If you used them, fish out the Bay leaf and garlic clove (unless you minced it), and add the cheese (if using).

11. Add the spinach. Stir to blend. Heat
and serve with more ground black pepper.

You’re building your skills: Did you know that the sauce you just made for the spinach is called Béchamel sauce, and is one of the five “mother sauces” in French cuisine? You can use this for the base for cheese sauce and so much more.

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Zucchini Chard Cakes

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve shared this zucchini chard cake recipe with folks this summer. I was sure that as soon as I mentioned zucchini I would be greeted with a sigh and eyeroll.

“No more zucchini!” they’d say. “We’ve had enough!”

 

Because, let’s be honest, each summer we all have more than enough of the ubiquitous green squash. Even if we don’t, we probably know someone looking to give away a few dozen or so. But to my surprise, as I traveled around making zucchini cake after zucchini cake, I didn’t get one complaint. In fact, people were enthusiastic to find another way to put it to use.

I’m always happy to be proven wrong. Really. That’s why this became my go to dish (along with a complementary tomato basil chutney) for my cooking demos and local food tastings. Apparently we haven’t reached peak zucchini. Word is still out on kale, though.

rainbow swiss chard keene fm  by SC, 2008

 

These cakes use the classic technique of vegetable hiding. Zucchini doesn’t have a strong flavor all on its own and when you mix it into what is more or less a standard pancake recipe, you hardly can tell it’s there at all. So much so, that you can also get away with chopping up even more healthy green stuff – chard and parsley – and mixing it in as well. Simply avoid those fruitless debates with the picky eaters in your life (note: none of mine happen to be kids) and just go ahead and serve these anyway. Before they can tell you how much they don’t like these vegetables, they’ll be happily and unknowingly eating them anyway. Call me cruel, but this is one of my great pleasures in life.

Zucchini Chard Cakes

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Yield: about 10 – 4 inch pancakes

Ingredients

  • 1 lb zucchini
  • 1/2 onion
  • small bunch of Swiss chard leaves
  • small bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 egg
  • 1 c flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • splash of milk
  • 2 Tbsp oil + some for the pan

 

We’re going to need to shred the zucchini. You can do this quite easily with a box grater, or if you’re intending to shred a large quantity, I’d opt for the food processor like I did here. If not using all of the zucchini at once, it does freeze nicely.

Next, grate the onion. I prefer to grate the onion instead of chop it, as it will blend better into the pancakes.

 

Remove the stems from the chard and save for another purpose. Chopped and tossed into a stir fry, perhaps? Then chop the leaves.

Combine the egg, salt, and flour in a bowl. Add in the zucchini, chard, onion, garlic and parsley and stir to form a thick batter. Add just a splash of milk and the oil to form a more workable, pourable batter.

 

Heat your skillet and lightly coat it with oil when hot. Preheat the oven to 200F. Pour 1/4 cup spoonfuls of batter onto the hot skillet and cook 2-3 minutes per side, until browned. Flip and cook another 2 minutes. Transfer the cakes to the oven to keep warm while you cook the remainder of the pancakes.

Serve as a side, topped with tomato chutney, or as a light summer dinner with a side of greens.

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Chard, Beet & Orange Salad

I’m a big fan of salads that aren’t just plain old salads. Not that there’s anything wrong with those, of course. But salads don’t all have to be a big bowl of lettuce. Maybe you can already figure that out from some of the other recipes I’ve posted. Raw or cooked. Hot or cold. Really, a salad can be whatever you throw together and toss with dressing.

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Future Chefs Challenge second-place winner Izabela Woolf with her White and Green Goodness salad. (Albert J. Marro / photo)

Earlier this spring, I was a judge in Sodexo’s Future Chef Challenge where Rutland fourth and fifth graders competed with their favorite salad recipes. With tasty combinations like tortellini salad, southwestern salad, Greek salad and Thanksgiving salad, those talented kids proved the point I’m trying to make. You can find an article I wrote about the event about the event in The Rutland Reader.

The combination of grated raw beets, lightly cooked rainbow chard, bright, juicy oranges and tangy balsamic dressing in this salad is refreshing and simple. It’s a good way to get beet detractors to give the vegetable another try. They’ve probably never had them like this – crunchy and raw, so they might be surprised this time around. At least, that was my experience when I served this for my sister – who actually wanted to keep the leftovers after dinner. And at a recent demo at GE, attendees quickly finished up the entire bowl I made for them and I didn’t hear one beet complaint. Woohoo!

On the other hand, the quick cooking down of the chard takes away some of the bitterness people often encounter when trying the green raw. Yet that aspect is no longer an issue here. All around, this salad will change your preconceptions. Give it a try at your next picnic.

  Sauteed Chard and Raw Beet Salad

  • 3-4 medium-sized beets with the leaves
  • 1 large bunch rainbow chard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces of goat cheese, crumbled (optional)
  • 1 medium orange, peeled and segmented

For the dressing:

  • 2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Peel the beets and either grate them on a box grater or in a food processor. If you’d rather not have your hands stained purple, handle the beets with paper towels or wear gloves. You should have about 2-3 cups grated beets in the end.

Wash the chard. Shake to remove excess water, but no need to dry. Separate the stems and ribs from the leaves either carefully with a knife or by simply tearing by hand. Give the ribs a rough chop. Stack the leaves on top of each other and slice them crosswise into thick ribbons.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and stems and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the leaves of the chard and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the leaves have wilted and taste tender. If the leaves still taste bitter, season with additional salt. Transfer the chard to a large bowl and allow to cool for a few minutes.

To make the dressing, combine ingredients in a small jar and shake until thoroughly mixed.

Combine the greens and the shredded beets, and toss with the vinaigrette. Serve, topping each plate with goat cheese, if using, and orange pieces.

This salad will keep refrigerated for up to one week, but wait to dress and top with goat cheese until just before serving.

Adapted from Elizabeth Passarella at The Kitchn

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Beet Burgers

That’s no typo. Beet (not beef) burgers are awesome. But I’m going to go ahead and guess you aren’t already enjoying these at your typical summer cookout. Though there’s no reason why you shouldn’t. If you give these guys a chance you might be surprised – even you non beet lovers out there. A couple of attendees at a demo yesterday afternoon certainly agreed. They’re crunchy, sweet and moist. On a slice of toasted bread with some fresh greens and cheese, they quickly surpass the usual overcooked, dried out burgers that I often dread at gatherings. I want flavor! And these deliver.

The keys to a good veggie burger, aside from something like a portobello mushroom burger, are a balance of beans, grains, veggies and seasonings. What’s cool is that you can use whatever kinds you like. Pinto beans? Sure. Quinoa? Why not? Sweet potato? Definitely. But it’s certainly a balance. I’d say ia 1:1:2 ratio of beans to grains to veggies is ideal. Then flavor with the herbs and spices you prefer. Though, firmer vegetables are pretty much a necessity if that’s your burger’s focus. The root vegetable avenue is probably the way to go. And maybe some winter squash too.

On the other hand, an even balance of beans and grains, supplemented with some vegetables, works fine too. Though, technically, something like that might be classified as a bean or grain burger rather than veggie. Keep in mind that the beans and grains contribute proteins and amino acids that make a non-meat burger nutritionally balanced, so they’re certainly an important component no matter which kind you make.

Good characteristics of a veggie burger are: 1) that it stays together and 2) that it has some texture (not mush). If you find your burger heading in either of those directions, throwing in the chopped or ground nuts will help improve things immensely. I find that adding too much flour results in (logically) an overwhelming flour taste.

If you’re new to veggie burgers, this is a good place to start. And beets aren’t all that messy to work with – despite popular belief. I’ve never had an issue. And you could always use a food processor. So, have fun with this one and then try some of your own combinations!
 Beet Burgers

Prep Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 9 burgers

 Save yourself some time: Use leftover cooked rice and beans. When cooking grains and beans – always try and make some extra and freeze in cup sized portions for quicker cooking in recipes (like this) later on. Don’t feel like chopping? Throw the beets, onions, peppers and garlic in a food processor, instead.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, diced and seeds removed
  • 3 large red beets, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 cups black beans (or 1 can)
  • Juice from 1/2 lemon
  • 2 Tbsp cider vinegar
  • 4 Tbsp parsley, minced
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped/ground nuts (optional; walnuts or almonds work well)
  • Olive oil
  • Bread, cheese and other burger fixings

Instructions

  1. Heat a couple teaspoons of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and peppers and cook until softened. Stir in the beets. Cover and cook until the beets are tender, stirring occasionally – about 10-15 minutes. Deglaze the pan with the cider vinegar and lemon juice.
  2. In a large bowl, mash the black beans up a bit. Add the rice, the beet mixture and herbs and spices. Stir to combine and taste for seasoning. Slowly mix in a little flour and nuts (if using) until it’s a thick enough consistency for forming patties.
  3. Heat a heavy skillet over high heat. Add a few tablespoons of olive oil. When you see the oil shimmer, the pan is ready.
  4. With your hands, scoop up about a cup of the burger mix and shape it into a patty between your palms. Set it in the pan, where it should begin to sizzle immediately. Shape and add as many more patties as will fit in your pan. Reduce the heat to medium-high.
  5. Cook the patties for 2 minutes, then flip them to the other side. You should see a nice crust on the cooked side. If adding cheese, do so now. Cook the second side for another 2 minutes.
  6. Serve the burgers on buns or lightly toasted bread along with some fresh greens.
  7. Cooked burgers should be eaten the same day. Leftover mix can be saved for up to a week. OR, form your patties, place on parchment or wax paper and freeze for a few hours before transferring to a large freezer bag.

Recipe adapted from Nick Evans at www.macheesmo.com.

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Strawberry Leek Quesadillas

Strawberries and leeks? Yes, that’s right. An unlikely pairing perhaps, but one that totally works. I am more than a little amped to stockpile fresh strawberries and use them in new and interesting ways, like this.

Strawberries are one of the first fruits of the season in VT and young, tender leeks should start hitting the market. If you can’t find leeks just yet, try any other mild onion. Scallions or chives could work well here.

Find out which farms offer pick your own strawberries. It’s a good opportunity to get out there and enjoy a sunny day. Our Valley Food & Farm Guide can point you in the right direction.

You’ll want to slice, wash and then chop your leeks. While making these for high school students a couple weeks ago, I was shocked that almost none of them could describe a leek! Though I wonder if I could at that age, either…

Then saute them down until they’re soft and slightly browned. Meanwhile, start slicing the strawberries.

Get your cheese, cilantro and black pepper ready to go. Making a quesadilla is kind of like making a stir fry – you want everything ready to get in the pan at about the same time.

Side note: I recommend sticking with a quick melting, gooey cheese like mozzarella. I tried goat cheese and found it hardly melted down. I then tried cheddar and there wasn’t that beautiful binding quality either.

Lightly coat a skillet with olive oil, heat the pan to high heat, then add, in this order: one tortilla, the cheese, the cooked leeks, the strawberries, the cilantro, pepper and second tortilla. Cook about 3 minutes. Flip with a large spatula and cook the other side another 3 minutes or so, until the tortilla is nicely browned and the cheese is melted.

Combine with a salad and you’ve got yourself a quick dinner.

Strawberry and Leek Quesadillas

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 2 + quesadillas

Ingredients

  • 1 leek, light green and white portion only
  • A handful of rinsed and hulled strawberries
  • 4 corn tortillas
  • 1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Black pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Slice your leek in half lengthwise. Thoroughly rinse the layers then thinly slice into small pieces.
  2. Saute the leek in a little olive oil over medium heat. Cook until soft and slightly browned.
  3. While the leeks cook, slice the strawberries.
  4. Get all of the ingredients ready to go.
  5. Heat a clean pan with just a slight coating oil. Then add the ingredients in this order: tortilla, cheese, cooked leeks, strawberries, cilantro, pepper and second tortilla.
  6. Cook the first side for 3 minutes. Flip with a large spatula and cook the second side for another 3 minutes. The tortillas should be nicely browned and cheese completely melted.
  7. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Recipe adapted from Sprouted Kitchen.

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Blueberry, Basil & Jalapeno Salsa

As strawberry season faded in the last few weeks, I quickly turned my attention to blueberries – my all time favorite berry. And once again, I’m looking for some creative uses for experimenting and sharing with you – at least the successes. With blueberries now in season, and pick your own sites offering some of the lowest prices, there’s every reason to take incorporate berries into your diet on a daily basis.

What was I talking about? Oh, right. It’s useful to learn new ways to use familiar ingredients. That way, you don’t get fatigued on something after just a few days. Though, if you just stock up and freeze your berries for use throughout the year, that’s good too.

favorite pepper

How hot is your favorite pepper?

Even though blueberries are the focus right now, that doesn’t mean I’m disregarding the awesome amount of produce that’s flourishing right now. Often, I find the most interesting uses for fruit to be savory, not sweet. With this simple salsa jalapenos, basil, garlic and red onion pair with the berries for a spicy-sweet flavor.

It takes just a few minutes to get everything ready and toss in the food processor. A blender could work just as well too. Despite what many people think, comparatively speaking, jalapenos are relatively mild. Take a look at this pepper scale from www.liveinthenow.com. Jalapenos fall in between poblanos and cayenne peppers. And there’s a big difference between jalapenos compared and habaneros, which are much, much hotter. But there’s nothing wrong with a little heat. In fact, capsaicin benefits the heart.

If you’re hesitant, I suggest starting out with less. It’s much easier to add heat than to remove it. Start with just a 1/4 of a jalapeno if you’re really cautious. Or, use half and add the second half if it’s too mild for you. Note: remove the seeds of the pepper for less heat. Just slowly slide the edge of your knife across the inside of the pepper.

While you enjoy this simply as a snack with corn tortilla chips, it would pair fantastically with grilled pork chops or pork tacos. As the recipe suggests, try simmering for a few minutes to reduce the amount of liquid if you do decide to use in a taco.

 

Blueberry Basil and Jalapeno Salsa

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 2 cups

Want more heat? Include the seeds and try using the whole pepper. This would also be excellent with cilantro in place of the basil.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1/2 jalapeño, seeded
  • 1/4 red onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 large handful of basil
  • 1/2 lime, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • Sea salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Puree everything in a food processor until smooth. Optional: Simmer the salsa to remove excess liquid. If using in a taco, for instance, this might be a good idea.

Notes

Adapted from www.closetcooking.com

ratatouille

End of Summer Ratatouille

Whenever I find myself loaded with tomatoes, peppers, onions, eggplant and summer squash this is what I make. Ratatouille (rat-a-too-ee) is an old classic French vegetable stew that was made popular again a few years back by the Pixar movie of the same name. If you haven’t seen the film, I suggest you do – perhaps tomorrow over a day old dish of this stew.

The theme of the film is that anyone can cook and make delicious food with high quality, yet simple ingredients. That’s awfully similar to the premise of Everyday Chef, isn’t it? Also, the longer the vegetables meld together and break down, the better this dish gets – so I wasn’t joking on trying it the next day. It’s great cold and I often eat it simply on a piece of toasted bread.

I know I’m bringing this to you a bit late in the season and for that I apologize. During the past few weeks much of my time was focused on our Twilight in the Meadow fundraiser, which helps raise money to continue our programs like Everyday Chef. But I saw a ton of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant thriving at the market this past weekend, so it is still very much possible to make. You might be out of luck on the summer squash at this point, but just increase the amount of the other ingredients and use varying colors, or throw in a few others, such as mushrooms or even potato.

I’ve seen ratatouille made many ways. But my favorite is by roasting. I think it’s also the least fussiest method.

Gather your veggies. Peel and slice as needed. I like to do a rough chop and keep everything similar in size. I don’t bother with a fancy presentation. Often you’ll see ratatouille plated with everything sliced paper thin in circles, all the same in size, and arranged perfectly together. But unless you’re trying to impress or are running a restaurant, I don’t think you don’t need to bother. This will still look, and more importantly, taste, good.

 Arrange everything but the tomatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with of oil, thyme leaves and a few pinches of salt. Roast at 425 for 30-45 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook down the tomatoes on top of the stove in a little heated oil, garlic and red pepper flakes over medium-low heat. Stir occasionally and throw in some salt to taste. When they’re close to done and at a sauce-like consistency, add in a few splashes of red wine vinegar and the basil.

When the veggies are ready – they should look something like this, maybe a little less charred – toss them together with the tomatoes.

You could eat this all by itself topped with some grated Parmesan. But I love to serve it over polenta. Remember, it gets better the next day and the day after that. Bon Apetit.

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium eggplants
  • 3 medium onions
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 3 zucchini or summer squash
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • red wine vinegar

Instructions

  1. Heat oven to 425.
  2. Peel veggies as needed (especially if your eggplant is not super fresh) and roughly chop into pieces about the same size.
  3. Place all the veggies but the tomatoes on a baking sheet with 1/2 of the garlic, the thyme leaves, a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of salt.
  4. In a medium sized pot heat a couple tablespoons of oil and then add in the remaining garlic and red pepper flakes. Let cook for a minute, then add in the tomatoes and season with salt.
  5. Allow to cook down over low-medium heat for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally and being careful not to let the tomatoes splatter.
  6. When nearly done, add in the red wine vinegar and basil.
  7. When the veggies are done roasting, toss with the tomatoes and serve. Top with Parmesan if you’d like. Enjoy by itself or over polenta.
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No Recipe Vegetable Sauce

If you take a look at my fridge or kitchen counter right now you’ll find odds and ends of lingering summer veggies. Green tomatoes on their way to ripening, a couple of Japanese eggplants, all kinds of peppers, mixes of herbs in jars of water and other remnants.

I’m sad to pull be cleaning out the garden – though the bursts of warm temps are surprisingly keeping the peppers and eggplant going, if not at a bit slower of a pace. And I’m still seeing many of these items still at market – but probably not for too much longer now.

Though they might not be in their prime anymore, that certainly doesn’t stop me from finding a use for them. You could should try the ratatouille, or you could do something even easier – just cook everything down in a big saute pot.

Yeah, that’s right. With some tomatoes in there to release their juices (don’t be afraid to use the green ones for a completely different, but still delicious flavor), it doesn’t take long for everything to break down and transform into one awesome vegetable sauce. Just start with some onions and garlic in oil. Add in whatever veggies you have. Season. Toss in some chopped herbs towards the end of cooking. And when it looks sauce-like, use however you want. If it still needs a little flavor, add a splash of vinegar, another pinch of salt, or a few more herbs.

Toss with pasta, fill up tacos, cover a pizza, serve over your favorite grain or just eat it plain. I’ve even freezed sauces like this with some success.

Whatever you do, just don’t let the last of those summer flavors go to waste!

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