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!

Eggplant Curry

Eggplant is one of those foods, like summer squash, I often hear people say they don’t like. And, as usual, I tell them that they just haven’t had it prepared well. On it’s own, without any seasoning, eggplant can indeed be a little tasteless and bitter. But that’s exactly why we need to know how to handle and prepare this nightshade veggie for maximum flavor and health benefits – like the ton of fiber and manganese it contains. And, when done well, eggplant can rival the taste and texture of chicken – making it a vegetarian favorite.

I recommend peeling your eggplant, especially if it is a larger variety like Black Magic – the most common kind you’ll find in the United States, pictured at left in the first photo above – and especially if it is not at it’s peak freshness.

It’s often said you should salt eggplant and let it sit for 30 minutes or so in order for the water, and bitterness, to be released. I say go for it – if you have the time and have planned ahead. I often don’t. Having tried it both ways, I can’t say I see a significant difference in the end, especially in a dish like this.

Note: Since I had quite a few eggplants to get through when I took these photos, you’ll notice they did start to brown. But I wasn’t worried because they cooked in the curry sauce and no one ever noticed. 

Start with some garlic. Brown it just slightly in a medium sized pan with some olive oil for a couple of minutes. Then add in the eggplant and a few pinches of salt. You want to cook the eggplant, stirring often, until it starts to release some liquid, 5-10 minutes.

Next, in goes the curry powder, ginger and coconut milk. I’m a big fan of coconut milk sold in cartons like this. I use it for everything from plain drinking to smoothies to cooking. However, when coconut milk is called for in a recipe, it’s probably referring to the heavier, richer kind you’ll find in cans. I recommend keeping a few of these cans, found in the international section of your grocery store, on hand at all times. They’re shelf stable. The cartons are not. But the carton works for a lighter flavor, and if you’ll use it up like regular milk.

Keep simmering the eggplant for a good 25 minutes or more. Taste it as you go and see how it’s tasting. You’ll know it’s done cooking when it melts in your mouth. Adjust the seasoning as needed and throw in the remaining garlic just before finishing. And it’s good to go!

Want to add peppers? Onions? Or other veggies? Feel free to add them in when you add the eggplant. I kind of like the simplicity of the eggplant though.

 

Eggplant Curry

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds eggplant
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro or parsley for garnish (optional)

Instructions

  1. Peel the eggplant and cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
  2. Place oil and 1/2 of the garlic in a large deep skillet over medium heat. Two minutes later add the eggplant and a couple pinches of salt.
  3. Stir and toss constantly until after 5 or 10 minutes the eggplant begins to release some of the oil it has absorbed. Add in the curry powder/paste, coconut milk and ginger.
  4. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until eggplant is tender, about 30 minutes. About five minutes before it is done add the remaining garlic. Season. Garnish and serve over rice or another grain.

eggplant curry

Rhubarb Chutney

Fact: rhubarb is tart. Lie: In order to enjoy rhubarb we must overwhelm it with sweetness.

While the sweetness of ripe strawberries certainly pairs well with rhubarb, rhubarb can actually be a star all on its own. When I saw the first pink rhubarb stalks of the season a few weeks ago, local strawberries weren’t even ready for bubbling together in a pie. So I wondered what else I could do.

Looking back on other rhubarb recipes that I’ve previously shared, I wasn’t feeling good about the amount of sugar they contained. And I refuse to believe it is necessary. Then I remembered a rhubarb chutney recipe that Joann, our bookkeeper at RAFFL, shared a couple of years ago. Sadly, Joann will soon be leaving us and moving on, so I thought now was a good time to revisit her rhubarb chutney. Now I just need to figure out who will appreciate my sense of humor when she’s gone.

rhub

Since I didn’t get a chance to make Joann’s chutney at the time of posting (it was winter), I was excited to give it a try this spring and find that I was right – rhubarb doesn’t need to rely only on sweetness to taste good. I made a few adjustments to her recipe, like adding in orange zest and juice and replacing the sugar with honey, and I liked the results.

In this chutney, the rhubarb is sliced into pieces and sauteed along with chopped red onion. Before long, the rhubarb starts to break down and release its juices while the onion becomes tender.

The chutney gets a good kick of flavor from ginger and garlic, one of my favorite seasoning combos. A splash of cider vinegar and honey help round it out. I think rhubarb does need some sweetness, but it shouldn’t be overpowering. I think the mildness of honey helps solve my over sweet rhubarb frustration.

chutney

The result is part sauce, part condiment that can be paired with pork, fish and poultry or simply over toasted bread with melted cheese. But if you are looking for a sweet rhubarb idea, try this frozen yogurt or this compote.

 

Rhubarb Chutney

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 15 minutes

Yield: 3 cups

Ingredients

  • 12 ounces rhubarb
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 inch piece of fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • splash of apple cider vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1 orange

Instructions

  1. Wash and chop the rhubarb into half inch pieces. Roughly chop the onion.
  2. Heat a pan over medium high heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. Add the rhubarb and onion and let cook until rhubarb has softened and released its juices and the onion is tender. About 10 minutes.
  3. While that cooks, grate the ginger and mince the garlic. Add to the pan when ready to go.
  4. After 10 minutes of cooking, add the honey, vinegar and raisins. Taste and season with salt as you see fit. After 5 more minutes of simmering, add the zest and juice of the orange. Stir. Remove from heat and let cool to thicken.

Corn and Bacon Sauté

We kicked off the expansion of Farm Fresh Connect, our local, online farmers market, to the communities of Pittsford and Chittenden last week. We’re pumped to make local food more accessible in these two Vermont towns, both of which have limited shopping opportunities – particularly for locally grown and produced food.
While the pickup of market orders happens at elementary schools in both towns, anyone in either community – whether they work or live nearby – is open to shopping on Farm Fresh Connect.

As part of the promotion of Farm Fresh Connect, at Wednesday pick ups between 3 & 5pm, we’re offering tastings of dishes made with items found on the market. Last week, it was this simple  corn and bacon sauté.

Sweet corn and smoky bacon are just meant to be paired together, which is why I love to start a pot of corn chowder with the fat left behind after cooking bacon. I add in a little zucchini and jalapeno,  if inclined, but almost always include basil. Thyme would work nicely as well.

The result is an excellent side dish for encapsulating the fleeting tastes of summer, though I’ve had a whole bowl as my entire dinner, too.

Hope to see you at one of our market pick-ups!

Corn and Bacon Sauté

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Yield: 4 servings, as a side

Ingredients

  • 1/4 lb bacon
  • 5 ears corn, husked
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 2 tablespoons minced basil leaves
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 small jalapeno (optional)

Instructions

  1. Chop the bacon into a small dice. In a pan over medium high heat, cook the bacon until crisp, watching closely to avoid burning. When crisp, use a slotted spoon to remove from the pan and set aside on a paper towel lined plate. Remove the pan from the heat.
  2. Slice the kernels off the corn cobs. A good way to do this is to invert a small bowl inside of a larger bowl and stand the cob on the small bowl. As you slice, the kernels will fall into the large bowl. Then, chop the onion and zucchini into a small dice. If using the jalapeno, remove the seeds and chop as well.
  3. Return the pan with the bacon grease to the heat and add the corn, onion, zucchini and optional jalapeno. Cook 8-10 minutes until the pan is dry and vegetables tender.

Sautéing Brussels Sprouts

Brussel Sprouts.  These mini-cabbage like sprouts grow on tall stalks and are full of Vitamins A and C, fiber and folic acid. They’ve been all over the farmers markets lately and that makes them a perfect side dish for any gathering this time of year.

And there are several ways to cook them. I usually like to roast them in the oven, but then again I could roast just about any vegetable and be happy. Many, however, like to sauté hers in a quick, effortless fashion.

Tara’s Brussels Sprouts

Serves 6

1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

First, clean the Brussels sprouts by soaking in water, chopping off the stems and removing the outer leaves. Then, cut the sprouts in half.

Heat the oil in a pan over medium high. When hot, add the garlic, cook for 30 seconds, then toss in the sprouts. Cook, until caramelized, about 8 – 10 minutes, stirring frequently. If the pan becomes too dry, add in 1/4 cup water. Serve hot, sprinkled with lemon juice.