Hanging on to Summer Veggies

The farmers markets here in the Portland area are probably at their most abundant right now. Tomatoes, peppers, corn, and eggplants are still bountiful and colorful. But trying to crowd them out are the piles of winter squash, apples, pears, brussels sprouts and the rest of the fall contingent. The weather is leaning towards fall but I’m a die-hard summer veggie eater as long as I possibly can be. I know those hefty squash that have absorbed a season’s worth of warmth and turned it into an edible hunk of sunshine will be there for me in a few weeks and will stick around until early spring, not much worse for wear.

Eggplants and a sweet, red pepper needed for the Hot, Sweet, Sour Eggplant dish below.

But the summer veggies are more fleeting so I’m cooking with eggplant and peppers almost every day and madly preserving tomatoes along the way.  I tend to make Italian dishes with these but lately I’ve been having fun with a Chinese-inspired dish–Sweet, Hot, Sour Eggplant–named so by me and undoubtedly inauthentic. It’s quick, full flavored and richer tasting than it is. The Thai basil that’s still thriving in a pot in my backyard makes it extra good but more common Genovese basil, cilantro or even parsley would all be good.

I neglected to take a picture on the evening I made this so this photo is of the leftovers I heated up together with the rice for lunch the next day.

Sweet, Sour and Hot Eggplant

My favorite way to serve this quick Chinese-inspired dish is over short grain brown rice but any rice is excellent. It’s a rich-tasting dish though actually fairly light in preparation.

2 medium eggplant (or several smaller ones—any kind of eggplant will work in this dish—the long slender Japanese ones, more common Italian, globe ones, . . .), skin on, cubed

1 medium onion, diced

1 sweet red pepper, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or fresh, minced Serrano, jalapeno or other hot pepper

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1 teaspoons salt (or to taste)

2-3 tablespoons olive or sunflower or other oil

3-4 tablespoons Thai basil, basil, cilantro or parsley, roughly chopped

Stir together soy sauce, vinegar, sugar and cornstarch in a small bowel.

In a large skillet or wok heat the oil and sauté onions and pepper (if using) over medium-high heat for about 5-7 minutes until they soften. Add red pepper flakes (or minced hot pepper) and eggplant and cook until it softens and browns a bit, about 15 minutes, stirring frequently. A few minutes before the eggplant is done add the minced garlic and stir well. Then add the sauce and stir well to mix and coat veggies. Cook over medium heat for a few minutes until sauce thickens and veggies are tender. Stir in the herbs, saving out a few for garnish if you’d like. Serve hot over rice with reserved herbs.

Happy Cooking and Eating!

Green Curry Summer Squash Soup

This dish was inspired by the ever clever and creative Heidi Swanson from her book Super Natural Every Day.

 

This recipe uses a good number of summer squash so it’s a great way to work through a stash. It’s wonderful warmed up the next day for lunch either eaten as soup or over rice. I can imagine this being delicious with other veggies as well as the season changes so experiment as you see fit. It would also be delicious with some chicken or prawns if you want to dress it up a bit and make it heartier.

 

Green Curry Summer Squash Soup
–inspired by Super Natural Everyday by Heidi Swanson

 

Seves 4-6

 

4 medium zucchini or other summer squash like yellow crookneck or patty pan, sliced into 1/2 inch half-rounds
1/2 a medium onion (sweet or regular yellow onion), thinly sliced
4-5 small potatoes, scrubbed and cut into small dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 2 heaping teaspoons green curry paste (I particularly like Thai & True brand), to taste
1 can full fat coconut milk
2 cups veggie bouillon broth (or vegetable or chicken stock)
1/4 cup Thai basil or regular basil leaves, packed and roughly chopped (saving a bit for garnish)
Salt
Squeeze of lime juice to taste (optional)
Cooked white or brown, long grain rice

 

Put a large soup pot on medium high heat. Add 3-4 tablespoons of the solid part of the coconut milk that makes up about the top fourth of the can, to the hot pan. Add the 1-2 teaspoons (depending on how much heat you want) of green curry paste and mash it up with the back of a spoon and blend it into the coconut milk. Fry this mixture for a couple of minutes until it becomes fragrant.

 

Add the sliced onion and fry for a few minutes until it softens. Add the squash and potatoes, several generous pinches of salt and cook, stirring often for 3-4 minutes. Then add the garlic, the remainder of the coconut milk and the broth. Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer for about 10 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Add most of the basil (reserving some for a garnish) and cook for another minute or two. Adjust seasoning and add a squeeze of lime juice, if using.

 

Serve hot over rice and garnished with more basil.