Sunday, August 23, 2009

One Local Summer Week 12

Our harvests are getting bigger and bigger ever week. My impatience at the beginning of the summer has turned into desperation to find a new way to use up all our fresh food! Luckily we have great neighbors to share with and a huge freezer to fill up. Fortunately, our tomatoes are still surviving and today I picked about 12 pounds of tomatoes, just in time for my first venture in canning.

As for ways to use up the harvest, I do have a few tricks left for that. Growing up in an Italian family with a huge garden, I was used to spending the summer enjoying special foods that only came once a year. There were certain foods in our house that were never brought home from the grocery store, especially out of season. Somehow has a kid, I never did like tomatoes, even the home grown ones, or squash. One of the few ways I would actually eat any vegetables was in my mom's giambrot'. (Pronounced: jom-braut) Giambrot' is one of those family recipes you can never find in a cookbook, most likely because the name we call it is most likely some sort of dialect, which would make it hard to look up in a proper cookbook. After taking some Italian in college and learning how to read and write the language, I have some ideas of where the word may actually come from. Probably something to Google some day soon... Most people when they taste it, or here it described would exclaim, "Oh, right, like ratatouille!" Ok, well probably, in some form...but I don't suggest you mention that to too many proud Italians ready to serve you some homemade, fresh from the garden giambrot'!


1 eggplant, peeled and cubed
1 zucchini, cubed
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 bell or cubanelle pepper, diced
1 hot pepper, diced (more or less to your liking)
chopped tomatoes (add as needed)
olive oil
salt and pepper

The great thing about this recipe is that it can be adjusted to your liking, and to what you have on hand. Many times I use green beans, or I may omit eggplant when they aren't available yet.

In a small saucepan, warm 2 Tablespoons olive oil and the garlic over medium heat. When the garlic begins to sizzle, add the peppers. Cook until they begin to soften. Add the eggplant, and stir to coat all the eggplant. Allow to cook together for about 5 minutes, adjusting the heat so the eggplant does not brown. Add the zucchini and stir. Add the tomatoes and stir. You can add as many tomatoes as you wish, depending on how thick you would like your giambrot'. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as necessary. Allow the vegetables to simmer until they are cooked to your liking, I never like mine too mushy! Serve alongside your main dish, with fresh basil and drizzled with olive oil.

Monday, August 17, 2009

One Local Summer Week 11

I am so amazed that August is half over already. This summer has really flown by, though it didn't help that our rainy, cold June made it seem so short either. August is really a great time for cooking and gardening though. Our eggplants are finally catching up with the rest of our vegetables, and we are having a very difficult time finding ways to use up our cucumbers (giving them away doesn't seem to help either!). I'm surprised that we haven't had an overabundance of squash, which isn't so bad, and the cucumbers make up for that anyway. We've also been harvesting a large amount of scarlet runner beans which we have been cooking as broad beans (you can leave them on the vines to dry and shell). Our peppers are slowly maturing, we have plenty of small ones on our plants, so I'll need to collect some recipes for those soon!

The dish I wanted to share this week is the dish I wait all year for. As soon as the eggplants are ready, the first thing I cook is the famous Sicilian dish, Pasta alla Norma.

Pasta all Norma - Serves 4

1 medium eggplant, preferably heirloom
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes, or tomato sauce
1 clove garlic
fresh basil
olive oil
salt and pepper
3/4 pound of pasta
ricotta salata

First peel the eggplant. Cut in half. Cube half of the eggplant and slice the rest. Place the eggplant into a colander and sprinkle with salt. Place a plate on top of the eggplant with a weight (maybe a can, or bottled drink) and leave for about 1 hour. Remove the weight and plate and lightly rinse the salt off the eggplant. Gently squeeze the liquid out of the eggplants and leave on a towel to dry.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, place a large skillet over medium-low heat and add olive oil to coat. When the oil heats and you see it shimmer, lay the eggplant slices in the pan to fry on both sides. The eggplant should be fairly soft and a bit brown. Place the eggplant on a dish and reserve. Smash the clove of garlic; it can be sliced, minced or left whole, as you like. Add the garlic to the pan. When you begin to smell the garlic, and before it browns, add the cubed eggplant. Stir the eggplant often as it cooks. The eggplant at first may draw in some oil, but as it cooks it will begin to release some oil. When that happens, add your tomatoes to the skillet. Stir together and then leave to simmer, adjusting the heat as needed. When the water comes to a boil, cook the pasta according to the directions. Drain the pasta when it is al dente and add to the sauce. Taste for salt and pepper. Add the basil, shredding with your hands as you add it. Drizzle some more olive oil and toss the pasta and sauce.

Serve the pasta with some eggplant slices on top, grated ricotta salata, and more fresh basil. Mmmmm....summer pasta!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Scarlet Runner Beans

We picked these today, still a little young for eating as shellies, but they are beautiful!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

One Local Summer Week 10


It seems from this haul that summer is really here! The Yankees are in first place, the warm weather has arrived and the garden is in full swing. Makes that wet, cold June so far away.

Last week while shopping at Marshall's in the cooking section, I came across a can of clams. To my surprise, when I looked closer at the label I realized they were from Maine. What a great find; I love having canned clams around for a quick meal, and what a bonus to have some that would even be local for us!

Linguini and Clams Casino (for 4)

3/4 pound of linguini
1-2 cans of clams
olive oil
1 clove garlic minced
4 slices bacon, chopped
oregano (we used fresh from our garden)
salt and pepper
white wine or seafood stock (I freeze mine in ice cube trays to use a little at a

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and salt heavily. Add the linguini and cook to al dente. Meanwhile, warm a skillet over medium-low heat. Add enough olive oil to coat the pan. Add the bacon to the pan and cook until just crisp, but not too brown. Add the garlic, cooking until you can smell it, but not browned. Add the clams, with their juice. Turn the heat up so the juices begin to bubble. The liquids should thicken up a bit, and if you go too far, add a splash of wine or cube of stock to the pan (you can also add either for flavor if you wish). Add salt and pepper to taste. When the pasta is ready, add it immediately to the pan. Add the oregano and stir up the pasta and sauce well.

You could also add chopped tomatoes or chopped red bell pepper to this dish if you wish. It's also best served with a sprinkling of crushed red pepper on top.

Monday, August 3, 2009

One Local Summer Week 9

Squash and eggs. For me, one of the most comforting things about summer. Growing up in an Italian family, we often had traditional Sunday suppers, where we all sat down around 2 in the afternoon to a huge bowl of pasta (usually rigatoni, but ravioli as a special wait, rigatoni with ricotta cheese! that was a special treat) with meatballs and sausage. Now, eating what would be a usual weeknight dinner so early in the day always meant that around 8 o'clock everyone was hungry again. Most times I can remember reheating pasta fazool, or some leftover pizza, but during the summer? Many nights it was squash and eggs. Squash fried up in a pan, scrambled eggs dumped on top and cooked until they were good and brown. And always eaten on the rest of the Italian bread from supper. It seems there must have been something a bit magical about that dish, because it was the only way I ever ate zucchini when I was a kid. Now, summer is never complete without a squash and eggs sandwich eaten on a Sunday night.

Squash and Eggs (two ways)

For the sandwiches:

eggs (1-2 per person)
small onion, minced
fresh zucchini or summer squash, cubed (1 small is good for 4)
Italian bread (ciabatta perhaps?) or sub rolls

Heat up a pan over medium heat with some olive oil, enough to coat the pan. Toss in the onions and cook until nearly browned. Add in the squash. Cook until at least soft, or cook until they are browned if you like them that way. While the squash is cooking, break up the eggs in a bowl. Once the squash is cooked, reduce the heat to low and add the eggs. Stir the eggs, squash and onions in the pan as the eggs cook. You can keep your eggs on the soft side if you like, but in this dish it's fine to really cook them. Add salt and pepper to taste, and put the hot eggs onto your bread. Top with some grated cheese, or not, and enjoy. Just remember to keep a tight hold on your bread, the eggs always try to squeeze out the other end!

Squash stuffed with eggs (for 4)

2 zucchini, either large or round for stuffing
3-4 eggs
1 small onion
olive oil
salt and pepper
fresh herbs

Preheated 350 F oven

Cut the zucchini in half and scoop out the middle and reserve. Rub the insides with olive oil and season with salt. Place zucchini halves on a sheet pan or baking dish and place in oven for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile mince the onion and chop the reserved zucchini. Heat a pan over medium heat with enough olive oil to coat the pan. Add the onion and zucchini along with a pinch of salt (I find when frying onions that salting them helps to keep them from burning). Beat the eggs with the vegetables are cooking. When the onions and zucchini are done, reduce the heat to low and add the eggs. Stir the eggs while cooking. They are done when they are still a bit soft. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the zucchini from the oven and add the eggs to each. Return the zucchini to the oven for 5 minutes. Before serving, add some chopped fresh herbs (I love oregano with these) or grated cheese.

Another version of this (in the picture above) is to use a round squash and bake an egg inside of it. Bake the squash shell as above. Instead of using scrambled eggs, break an egg into the squash and return it to the oven. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until the whites are set. I find this method a bit hard to get the yolks just right...most times mine end up a bit overcooked.

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