Sunday, June 22, 2014

Today's Harvest & Recipes for Abundant Summer Veggies

After being away from home for over a week, I came home to a garden overflowing with veggies to pick.  I picked my one and only spaghetti squash (the rest of the crop was wiped out by the squash vine borer). The tomatoes, eggplant and peppers are producing so much, it is difficult for me to try to use up everything while still fresh.  So, I've been giving veggies away to some of my neighbors, as well as trying to find new recipes to help use up all the wonderful veggies.

A couple meals I made this weekend to use the abundant garden fresh veggies were a Caprese Salad as well as a French Ratatouille.

Garden fresh tomatoes and basil with mozzarella cheese drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.  How could you go wrong?  This was a perfect lunchtime meal to use up my multitude of tomatoes and basil.  I grabbed the recipe from The Pioneer Woman blog.  It turned out pretty delicious!

Prep Time:  5 minutes   Cook Time:  20 minutes   Serves:  8


  • 2 cups Balsamic Vinegar
  • 3 whole Ripe Tomatoes, Sliced Thick
  • 12 ounces, weight Mozzarella Cheese, Sliced Thick
  •  Fresh Basil Leaves
  •  Olive Oil, For Drizzling
  •  Kosher Salt And Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Preparation Instructions

In a small saucepan, bring balsamic vinegar to a boil over medium-low heat. Cook for 10 to 20 minutes, or until balsamic has reduced to a thicker glaze. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl or cruet. Allow to cool.
When you're ready to serve, arrange tomato and mozzarella slices on a platter. Arrange basil leaves between the slices. Drizzle olive oil over the top of the salad, getting a little bit on each slice. Do the same with the balsamic reduction, making designs if you want. Store extra balsamic reduction in fridge for a later use.
End with a sprinkling of kosher salt and black pepper. Serve as a lunch, with crusty bread. Or serve alongside a beef main course for dinner.

I planted 4 eggplant plants this spring, and the long eggplant has really been producing a lot of fruit.  I haven't cooked many recipes with eggplant before, but needed to find something that not only used eggplant, but a lot of it.  I found this french ratatouille recipe that did just that, and bonus, it used a lot of the other summer veggies that I needed to use up right now.  The recipe was easy, but it took quite awhile to prep and cook, since there were a lot of veggies to cut up, as well as the fact that you cook each of the different veggies in batches before combining everything.  But overall, the recipe was delicious, used up the veggies I needed and there were plenty of leftovers for eating later in the week and freezing.  The great thing about this recipe is that you can adjust the amounts of veggies based on what you have on hand.

Makes 8 to 10 servings
2 large eggplants
2 yellow onions
3 bell peppers
6-8 medium zucchini 
4 large tomatoes
1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic
1 bay leaf
3-4 sprigs thyme
1/4 cup loosely packed basil, sliced into ribbons
Extra basil for garnishing
Salt and pepper
Peel the eggplants, if desired, and chop them into bite-sized cubes. Transfer them to a strainer set over a bowl and toss with a tablespoon of salt. Let the eggplant sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Dice the onions and roughly chop the peppers, zucchinis, and tomatoes into bite-sized pieces. Mince the garlic. The vegetables will be cooked in batches, so keep each one in a separate bowl.

Warm a teaspoon of olive oil in a large (at least 5 1/2 quart) Dutch oven or pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté until the onions have softened and are just beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. Add the peppers and continue cooking until the peppers have also softened, about another 5 minutes. Transfer the onions and peppers to a clean bowl.
Add another teaspoon of oil to the pot and sauté the zucchini with a generous pinch of salt until the zucchini has softened and is beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Transfer the zucchini to the bowl with the onions and peppers.
Rinse the eggplant under running water and squeeze the cubes gently with your hands to remove as much moisture as possible. Warm two teaspoons of oil in the pan and sauté the eggplant until it has softened and has begun to turn translucent, about 10 minutes. Transfer the eggplant to the bowl with the other vegetables.
During cooking, a brown glaze will gradually build on the bottom of the pan. If it looks like this glaze is beginning to turn black and burn, turn down the heat to medium. You can also dissolve the glaze between batches by pouring 1/4 cup of water or wine into the pan and scraping up the glaze. Pour the deglazing liquid into the bowl with the vegetables.
Warm another teaspoon of olive oil in the pan and sauté the garlic until it is fragrant and just starting to turn golden, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, bay leaf, whole sprigs of thyme. As the tomato juices begin to bubble, scrape up the brown glaze on the bottom of the pan.
Add all of the vegetables back into the pan and stir until everything is evenly mixed. Bring the stew to a simmer, then turn down the heat to low. Stirring occasionally, simmer for at least 20 minutes or up to 1 1/2 hours. Shorter cooking time will leave the vegetables in larger, more distinct pieces; longer cooking times will break the vegetables down into a silky stew.
Before simmer:

After one hour of simmering (I also added about two cups of water to get some broth):

Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs. Just before taking the ratatouille off the heat, stir in the basil. Sprinkle the extra basil and a glug of good olive oil over each bowl as you serve.

Leftovers can be refrigerated for a week or frozen for up to three months. Ratatouille is often better the second day, and it can be eaten cold, room temperature, or warmed.

• Making a Smaller Batch: This recipe can be cut in half and adapted to use whatever vegetables you have.

• Flavor Extras: For something different try adding a tablespoon of smoked paprika, a pinch of red pepper flakes, a quarter cup of red wine, or a splash of vinegar to the ratatouille.

Harvest Totals (since April)
  • 5 lbs Cherry Bell Radishes
  • 3 lbs Giant Fordhook Swiss Chard
  • 3 lb 5.5 oz Pic-N-Pic Summer Squash (5 squash)
  • 5 lbs 6.3 oz Black Beauty Zucchini (3 squash)
  • 13.7 oz Mammoth Melting Sugar Peas
  • 9.4 oz Mucho Nacho Jumbo Jalapeno (11)
  • 1 lb 1.5 oz Bush Blue Lake 274 Green Beans
  • 13.3 oz Gypsy Sweet Peppers (5)
  • 1 lb 7.9 oz Sweet 100 Cherry Tomato
  • 10.2 oz Juliet Roma Grape Tomato
  • 1 lb 11.6 oz Early Girl Tomato (6)
  • 2 lb 1.4 oz Long Eggplant (7)
  • 1 lb 3.8 oz Black Beauty Eggplant (1)
  • 4.6 oz Pablano Pepper (2)
  • 1 lb 2.0 oz Acorn Squash (1)
  • 1 lb 1.0 oz Butternut Squash (1)
  • 1 lb 6.6 oz Spaghetti Squash (1)
  • 5.3 oz Green Bell Sweet Pepper (1)

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