By Jan Main
September reminds me of two things: back to school (packing lunches) and farmers markets (our harvest). Of course, for me, both are associated with food.
Let’s talk about the first – preparing meals. Gone are the carefree summer days when you can slice a big home grown tomato, put it on a piece of crusty bread generously spread with mayo to enjoy outside in the sun and call it lunch. Now you need to plan and pack!
The latter, farmers’ markets, are associated with pure pleasure. A visit to one of our many markets teeming with abundant and beautiful produce feels like a mini vacation as you wander past vendor stalls brimming with produce: fruits, vegetables, flowers and pastries. The following recipes are the product of our abundance and can be wrapped into a delicious fall lunch.
At Jean Talon Market in Montreal, an enterprising farmer had packed mouth-watering baskets with eggplant, zucchini, fresh garlic, onions, basil and tomatoes as vibrant ingredients for ratatouille. This vegetable stew, originally from the south of France, can be served hot as a main dish over pasta or hot as a vegetable with a roast for dinner or cold as a salad. It is perfect for lunch, a reminder of hot summer days. For best flavor, be sure to choose a small, blemish-free eggplant with smooth, firm, shiny, dark purple skin.
1/2 cup (125ml) olive oil
2 onions, diced
1 large garlic clove, crushed
4 to 6 fresh tomatoes, blanched, skinless and chopped (substitute 1 can 28 oz/796 ml) chopped tomatoes
1 eggplant, skin on, cut into 1/2-inch/1 cm cubes
2 small zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch (1 cm) slices
2 bell peppers, 1 green and yellow, red or orange, chopped
1 C. (15 mL) granulated sugar
1 tbsp dried basil (1/4 tbsp if fresh chopped)
1 C. tsp (5 ml) dried oregano (3 tsp if fresh chopped)
1/2 cup (125 ml chopped fresh parsley
1 C. 1/2 tsp (5 mL) salt
1/2 tsp. 1/2 tsp (2 mL) fresh black pepper
In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and garlic, cook covered for about 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, peppers, sugar, basil and oregano. Bring to boil; lower the temperature. Cover and simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the parsley, salt and pepper. To taste. Adjust seasoning. For 4 to 6 people.
oven roasted vegetables
Roasted vegetables are delicious, even the ones you think you don’t like. They are the perfect dish for Thanksgiving when you can have a crowd. Make a huge casserole because they shrink and taste so good you’ll find yourself eating them before serving the others. The icing on the cake, they are just as tasty the next day served cold in a salad with a pinch of balsamic vinegar and a pinch of goat cheese if you wish.
The following vegetables are only suggestions. You can substitute others that you have on hand. It’s a great way to use up vegetables from the fridge like carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, potatoes, squash or fennel.
2 peppers, red, green, yellow or orange
2 sweet potatoes, peeled, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch (1 cm) slices
2 onions, sliced
2 zucchini (one summer and one green) sliced crosswise
2 cups (500 mL) mushrooms, cremini or white, buttons or large sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1/4 cup (50ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 C. (5 mL) each, sea salt and fresh black pepper. herbs if you like
Balsamic vinegar and/or goat cheese (optional)
Preheat the oven to 425 (220 C). Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the peppers, sweet potatoes, onions, zucchini, mushrooms and garlic. Sprinkle with oil, salt, pepper and herbs if using and toss to coat. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Bake 20 minutes; remove and stir. Reduce heat to 400 C (200 C). then return to the oven for an additional 20 to 30 minutes or until the vegetables are just tender. Transfer to a serving platter. If desired, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and crumbled goat cheese before serving. Makes about 4 servings.