Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Summer Plans An Exit Strategy

Here in KC we've had a nice string of gorgeous weather--mild temperatures, gentle breezes and some overnight rain here and there--teasing us with the autumn to come. Yesterday summer reared its ugly head and said, "I'm not done with you yet!!!" Temps in the 90s put us right back in our place. Calendars don't lie! The harvest moon last night, though, made me forget about temperatures and calendars and airconditioning and mosquitoes. So incredibly beautiful. Pausing to think about summer's dwindle, I'm reflecting this morning on what I'll miss most. The brilliant colors of zinnias, petunias and roses? The croaking frogs and flittery dragonflies at the pond? The baby cardinals attempting to leave the nest? The lazy afternoons in the family room recliner with my nose buried in my Kindle? The Cuisinart ice-cream maker churning out strawberry yumminess? The Weber fired up with Italian sausage and peppers grilling away? Well, all of that, for sure. But mostly I'll miss the farmers markets (which we have in abundance around these parts) and my husband's homegrown tomatoes! It's been a summer of...salsa-making and sauce-making. Tiresome, but I'll be glad come January!

For some reason I got on a ratatouille kick this summer. Through July and August we must have had it at least once every two weeks. And I never remembered to shoot a photo!

Ratatouille PREP: Scrub a large eggplant and cut it into 3/4" pieces. Place in a colander, sprinkle with Kosher salt. Scrub two zucchinis and cut into 3/4" pieces and place in a bowl. Salt. Place bowl on top of the eggplant in the colander. Let stand for about 30 min. Wrap each in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze to remove some of the moisture. Quarter lengthwise, then thin slice crosswise 2 yellow or Vidalia onions. Halve, seed and chop two pounds tomatoes (4 or 5) OR two cans diced tomatoes in tomato juice. Cut one red bell pepper into 1" pieces. Press 8 - 10 garlic cloves. COOK: Saute onion in olive oil in a large skillet. Transfer to Dutch oven (DO). Saute zucchini, adding more oil if needed. Add to DO. Saute eggplant, add to DO. Cook red bell pepper strips till soft. Add to DO. To the DO add the tomatoes, garlic, fresh or dried basil, fresh or dried parsley, fresh or dried chives (other herbs would work too but basil, parsley and chives are what I have growing in pots on my deck!) and house seasoning. (My house seasoning is Kosher salt, coarse ground black pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. I make up batches and keep it in a shaker.) Can add tomato juice or veggie stock if needed. Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer. Simmer till veggies are tender but not mushy. Taste. Add more house seasoning if needed. This is so darn good even my veggie-shy sons love it. And...it gets better after sitting in the fridge a day or two. And.....you can add some grilled kielbasa and cannellini beans on the second or third day (if there is any left) for a hearty entree! And......well, that's enough about ratatouille!

Speaking of zucchini....

Zucchini Soup

Yummy and mild, a tasty goodbye to summer...

In medium Dutch oven saute 1 chopped yellow onion till soft. Add three zukes that

have been scrubbed and cut into 1” cubes and 3 small Yukon potatoes, peeled and

cubed. Stir to coat in the oil. Cover with organic chicken stock. Add garlic powder,

onion powder, Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste (my house seasoning). Cover and bring to boil.

Reduce to simmer and cook till zukes and potatoes are soft. Puree with stick blender

till smooth. Add a squirt or two of fresh lemon juice and some fresh chopped herbs

(parsley and chives are good). Temper some cream (1/4 to 1/2 cup) in a small amount

of hot soup. Add to the pot. Taste...may need more cream and more salt and pepper.

***A sprinkling of grated sharp cheddar on top wouldn╩╝t be frowned on! Serve with

crusty bread.

As summer crawls to a close, it's good to savor those wonderful veggies for another week or two. But autumn will bring its own rewards...


Pen Pen said...

yep... i have mixed feelings about the changing of seasons this year, too. Maybe I am realizing just how fast time flies and how short life really is... but I am also realizing we "MUST" take time to smell the roses! I have some zinnias that need to be pulled up, but I couldn't bring myself to do it yet. My 19 mth grandson and I picked a lot of the flowers yesterday to decorate the wagon with... maybe he and I can get one more picking from them before I pull them. :o)

Libby said...

Farmer's markets are the best. We are fortunate to have them year round here - something I just could not adjust to in the east *s*

The Teacher Cooks said...

You are so right! The farmer's market will be missed, but vine ripened tomatoes I will dream about until next summer!