Trying my hand at another weekly post, this one’s called In Season. Writing these posts should be pretty easy the next few weeks as this is truly harvest time. I like to say I grew up on a farm; it’s not entirely true but my dad did have a very large vegetable garden and raised chicken during my childhood. I used to complain about helping out in the garden at the time but the memories are sweet, literally – picking fresh tomatoes right from the garden, sprinkling a little salt on them and eating them as a snack; opening up pea pods and eating the sweet peas inside; canning tomatoes to have fresh tomato sauce throughout the winter; fresh eggs for zabaglione on a winter morning.
If you don’t have a vegetable garden, there are a lot of great places in NY’s back yard to get fresh local produce. There are farmer’s markets throughout Westchester County, check out the Community Markets website for listings. You can also visit a local farm where you can pick your own vegetables. PickYourOwn is a great site for finding a farm in NY that has what you’re looking for. If you can’t grow your own vegetables, picking them yourself can also be quite satisfying – and if you have kids, my experience is that they love it also!
I’ve already talked about Beets this week, they are in season now and incredibly easy to prepare. So let’s talk about Eggplants, which I guess technically are a fruit. The key is picking eggplant at the right time; a eggplant that is picked too late (when it has lost it’s gloss and is more brown than purple) will taste bitter. Also, you don’t necessarily want to get the biggest eggplant you see; go for a medium sized one (either at the supermarket or the farm). Lastly, try to use it within a couple of days of picking/buying.
This is one of the easiest ways to make eggplant. Wash and dry your eggplant. Remove top (green part) and, leaving the skin on, slice eggplant into 1/2″ rounds (like the picture above). Brush eggplant slices with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat grill on high. Grill the eggplant until slightly charred and just cooked through. Place grilled slices on a plate and add some chopped garlic, chopped flat leaf Italian parsley, sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste amd drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vingear. You can repeat and layer, eat it warm or cold, serve as a side dish, appetizer, in a sandwich, be creative!
This was a favorite of mine growing up!! It’s very easy – the most time-consuming part is just chopping up some veggies – and it’s quite delicious (AND this is definitely one of those “I Can Make It Better” recipes!)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 eggplant, cut into 1/2″ pieces
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes (I like Muir Glen Organic Diced Tomatoes)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar (optional, but I prefer it)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
TIP: You can prepare all the veggies ahead of time, but leave chopping the eggplant for last. The flesh of the eggplant discolors rapidly after cutting.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add celery and saute for about 2 minutes. Add eggplant and saute until they begin to soften, about 2 minutes also. Season with a little sea salt. Add red pepper and cook for about 5 minutes. Then add onion and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, with their juices, and again season with salt and ground pepper to taste. Simmer over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring often, until the all the yummy flavors have blended and the mixture starts to thicken. Then add the vinegar and sugar, stir and taste. Season with a little more salt and pepper, if it needs it. You’re done!
Simple, right? You can eat the caponata as a side dish, as an appetizer (place some caponata on top of grilled ciabatta bread slices or crostini), or in a sandwich with Italian bread and mozzarella.
Hope you give these recipes a try. Let me know what you think and if you have any thoughts on this new weekly post, In Season. ~Cookie Mama