Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cooking up late summer produce

10/13/10 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

One day last week I gifted our monthly pest control man with a gigantic bag of tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini. He seemed genuinely grateful for some really fresh produce and a little surprised that I was so generous. In fact, I was deeply grateful to him!

It’s October and our garden is finally overflowing with vegetables. Every September, it’s the same story. Mother Nature fools us into thinking that our harvest of vegetables isn’t going to happen. The tomatoes languish on the vines. The cucumbers put out blossoms but no fruit while the zucchini are getting sunburned

Our 2010 garden really was struggling so we picked up a flat of Roma tomatoes from Deterings to can just in case ours didn’t ripen. Finally, we decided to ignore the garden and left home for a couple of weeks. You know what happened then, don’t you? We came home to an abundance of produce to deal with — now!

At this time of year, it’s somewhat overwhelming to decide how to eat, share or preserve this late bounty. I’ve used up most of my canning jars and am saving the last few for applesauce. Frankly, if I have to “put up” anything else, I’m going to get hysterical and if my husband has to eat another zucchini casserole he’s going to leave home.

So, I dusted off some cook books and old recipes to remind me that I have choices. This first recipe is great when our tomatoes have split and I need to cut the tops off before they can be used. Bright green bell peppers are abundant right now and stuffed with a colorful combination of fresh sweet corn, tomato sauce and rice, they really brighten up a dinner plate. Drizzle a little tomato sauce over the tops for extra flavor and juiciness. Enjoy!

Baked Tomatoes with Crumb topping

4 tomatoes, washed, cut in half and salted
4 slices bread, crust removed
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasonings

Preheat the oven to broil.

Spray a baking sheet and place the tomatoes cut side up on it.
Cut the bread into small pieces and put a few pieces into a blender. Pulse and repeat until crumbs form. Add the remaining ingredients. Pile on top of the tomato halves and broil 3-4 min. or until brown. Serve immediately.

Warning: This is not a precise recipe. You may have to make more (or use less) topping according to the size of your tomatoes and how many people you are serving.

Rice, Tomato and Corn Stuffed Peppers

6 small red or green bell peppers
1 cup rice
1-1/2 cups water
1/2 cup tomato sauce
Kernels from 1 ear of corn, boiled for 1 min. and drained
3 tablespoons fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup vegetable stock or water

Preheat oven to 475° F.

In a frying pan over medium heat, combine the water, tomato sauce, rice and a dash of salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook without stirring 15-20 min. until the rice is almost tender. Remove from heat and cool. Mix in the corn, basil and remaining salt and pepper. Add a dash of hot sauce if you like.

While the rice is cooking, cut off the tops of peppers. Remove and discard seeds and ribs. In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a boil. Place peppers in the stock; simmer 3 -5 min. Drain, reserving the stock.

Fill peppers with the cooled rice mixture. Stand them in a baking dish in which they fit closely together. Pour the reserved stock into the dish and cover with foil. Bake 15 min. Drizzle with a little extra tomato sauce if you like. Remove the foil and continue to bake until rice is tender.

Baked Zucchini or Summer Squash

Wash and slice 3 or 4 Summer squash.
1/2-cup onion, minced
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup butter
1-1/2 cups cheddar cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
Garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and paprika

Place sliced squash and minced onion in a buttered baking dish. Beat egg and pour over top. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup cheese.

In the microwave, melt butter and toss with bread crumbs to mix. Sprinkle squash evenly with bread crumbs. Sprinkle lightly with garlic and onion powder, salt, pepper and paprika. Top with a layer of shredded Cheddar cheese.

Bake at 325°F for 30 minutes or until squash is tender and cheese is bubbly.

Roasted Zucchini with Onions, Feta Cheese, and Basil

4 medium green zucchini
2 medium yellow squash
8-10 green onions
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1-2 tsp. sea-salt
2 T extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup feta cheese (measure after crumbling, loosely packed)
1/4 cup chiffonade of fresh basil, optional (other herbs such as oregano or parsley could also be used)

Preheat oven to 375 F

Wash zucchini and yellow squash; trim off stem ends. Cut each squash lengthwise down the middle and then cut each piece into half-moon pieces about 1/2 inch thick.

Clean the green onions and slice into diagonal pieces about 2 inches long. Put zucchini and onions into a plastic bowl. Mix together olive oil, salt, and minced garlic and toss with onion and squash.

Choose a roasting pan that will hold the vegetables in a single layer, and spray with non-stick spray or mist with olive oil. Arrange vegetables on roasting pan and crumble feta cheese over. Roast about 25 minutes or until the vegetables are barely tender. Stir the vegetable-cheese mixture once or twice during roasting so melted feta is coating some of the squash by the time it's done. Serve hot, with basil or other fresh herbs sprinkled over as desired.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner 
is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes that are 
elicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

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