Gardeners are reaping the benefits of their labor by the bushelful about now. And, if you don’t have a garden yourself, the farmers and vendors at local farmers markets and produce stands are happy to share the fruits of their labor with you. A visit to the farmers market in my area yielded perfect zucchini — smallish and dark, with no unbroken skin, and gorgeous pole beans that were firm (making them really good for “snapping” later) and blemish free. This is the time of the year to brush up on your canning skills (or acquire them) and be reminded about the proper way to prepare vegetables for freezing. In my home state of South Carolina, excellent information on both safe canning and freezing comes via the Home and Garden Information Center, Clemson Cooperative Extension, at http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/food/food_safety/preservation. The National Center of Preservation maintains an outstanding one, too, at http://nchfp.uga.edu. If you’ve got a surplus of garden-fresh summer vegetables, preserve them now for a time when just-picked veges are no longer easy to unearth — come November, trust me, you’ll be thankful you did.
Sue Ade is a syndicated food writer with broad experience and interest in the culinary arts. She has worked and resided in the Lowcountry of South Carolina since 1985 and may be reached at email@example.com.
Down Home Bacon and Onion Pole Beans
1½ pounds pole beans, blanched (recipe follows)
6 slices thick bacon
1 small onion, diced
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 teaspoon salt
Salt and pepper
Wash the beans, then trim stems and ends. Cut beans, on a diagonal, in thirds, then blanch beans and set aside. Cook the bacon in a large skillet until crisp, then cut bacon into 3-inch pieces; set aside. Remove all but 1½ tablespoons of the drippings from the pan, then sauté onion in the reserved bacon grease until translucent. Remove onion from the pan and set aside with the bacon; keep the bacon and onion warm. Over medium-high heat, heat chicken broth in the skillet the same skillet used to cook bacon and onion until boiling. Lower heat and add blanched green beans to skillet, cooking, uncovered, until beans are just tender and most of the chicken broth has cooked down, about 10 minutes. When beans are cooked, drain off excess chicken broth and toss in onion and bacon, gently stirring until beans are well coated. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer beans to a serving platter and serve. Makes 6 servings.
To blanch pole beans
Rinse green beans and snap off ends. Cut beans in thirds, on a diagonal, so they cook evenly. For about 1½ pounds of beans, bring 6 quarts of water to a boil, adding 1 tablespoon of salt. Plunge the beans into the boiling water and let boil for 5 minutes. Immediately drain the green beans in a colander and plunge them into ice water for 5 minutes; drain well and set aside.
Sausage Stuffed Summer Squash
4 medium zucchini
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper
1 pound Italian sausage
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup soft breadcrumbs, preferably homemade
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Cut zucchini in half lengthwise, scooping out insides. Drain zucchini pulp well and set aside. Blanch shells in enough boiling water to cover for about 5 minutes; drain well, then immerse in ice water for another 5 mintues. Remove from ice water; drain and set aside. Over medium heat, heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add sausage and brown; drain all but one tablespoon of grease from the skillet. Add onion, garlic, reserved zucchini pulp, thyme and parsley. Cook for about 5 minutes, seasoning with salt and pepper, to taste. Remove from heat and cool slightly, then mix in egg and breadcrumbs. Stuff mixture into reserved zucchini shells and place shells into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking pan. Sprinkle cheese, over all. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes, or until browned and zucchini are tender. Makes 4 servings.
Tian of Just Picked Vegetables
Recipe courtesy “Nantucket Open House Cookbook” by Sarah Leah Chase; Workman Publishing Company
3 medium zucchini, sliced ¼- inch thick
3 medium summer squash, sliced ¼-inch thick
1 large eggplant, sliced ¼-inch thick
5 ripe medium tomatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick
¾ cup olive oil
2 large yellow onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1½ cups fresh breadcrumbs
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1 bunch fresh parsley, minced
Very finely chopped zest of 1 lemon
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the zucchini and summer squash in a bowl, sprinkle lightly with salt and toss to combine. Let stand 1 hour. Repeat the process with the eggplant and tomatoes in separate bowls. Meanwhile, heat ¼ cup of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, reduce heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes longer. Remove the onion mixture from the heat. Stir in the breadcrumbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle half the mixture over the bottom of a 12-inch round or oval grain dish. Drain the zucchini and summer squash and pat dry with paper towels. Repeat with the eggplant and tomatoes. Alternately layer the vegetables over the bread mixture in the dish. Sprinkle each layer with salt and pepper and drizzle with the remaining oil. Top with the remaining bread mixture. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Combine the parsley, lemon zest and Parmesan cheese. Remove the foil from the dish and sprinkle the parsley mixture evenly over the top. Bake uncovered until the top is nicely browned and the vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Let stand several minutes, and then serve. Serves 8 to 10.