Eggplant, Peppers and Tomatoes Oh My!

Over the past two weeks I made it a goal to clean all the garden and farmer's market produce out of my fridges (thats right I have two fridges), to get a fresh start on fall. My CSA started last week and I know I will be wanting to make that transition to more comfort type and large batch meals.  If you are interested in learning more about Fall CSA's check out my last post. Below are the recipes I found that use up all my produce, a ratatouille, green tomato soup, and fermented cayenne pepper hot sauce!

Normally at this time of the year you will have a little bit of everything on hand. I had eggplants, peppers, ripe tomatoes and unripe green tomatoes to use up. My first thought to use most of these ingredients up was Ratatouille. I did some recipe research earlier this fall and found so many variations of this classic french dish. I narrowed down my search by looking for the least timing consuming option. I have to say this dish impressed me with it's ease and flavor-fulness. 

Ratatouille

2 medium eggplant

2 medium zucchini

2 ts salt

1 large yellow onion

2 peppers - red or green

1 lb cherry tomatoes or 1 jar homemade/store bought marinara sauce

4 tb olive oil

2 cloves garlic

handfull basil

If using cherry tomatoes start here, if using pre-made sauce start on the next step. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Wash tomatoes and place in a baking dish, drizzle with olive oil. Peel garlic and add to the dish. Bake for 30 mins. 

Wash and slice eggplant and zucchini into coins. Place in a bowl and sprinkle with salt about 2 ts to start sweating the water out. Let sit for 20 mins

Wash and slice peppers and onions. In my pictures below I sliced these lengthwise, the second time I made this I sliced widthwise across the vegetable. It was easier to layer in the dish. Once the eggplant and zucchini are done, start to arrange all the vegetables and basil evenly throughout the dish. Add the cheery tomatoes or tomato sauce to the top.  

Bake for 40-50 mins. Let cool and enjoy with a nice red wine.


Onto the 10 pounds of green tomatoes... I had never used green tomatoes in a recipe before. I know you can pickle and fry them, but that wasn't going to work with the massive amount I had. I found a recipe by Sherri, from the blog With Food and Love, that would be perfect to use up all these green beauties. I highly recommend following the whole recipe including the extra herb oil and garlic-cashew cream sauce. Very tasty! 

For her recipe click here!


My husband Steve loves heat in his food, whether thats hot jalapeños or hot sauce on everything. I already canned pickled jalapeños for the winter so I thought I would try my hand at the hot sauce. This was my first time fermenting and I discovered it is so easy! Basically you just let it sit and do it's thing for a week, making sure to remove any mold that develops. Pretty hands off. I will advise that when attempting to ferment, always follow a recipe for food safety measures. 

Fermented Cayenne Pepper Hot Sauce - Recipe from Pick a Pickle, by Hugh Acheson

1 lb cayenne peppers

2 tb water

1 1/2 ts pickling salt

2 c distilled white vinegar

 Cut stems off peppers and place in a food processor with the water. Chop until they are a little smaller then diced size pieces. Add salt and pulse a few more times. Place in a sterilized quart sized mason jar. Cover the top with a clean cloth and place the ring on the jar to secure the cloth. Let sit in a dark place at about 70 degree for 48 hours. 

After 48 hours, check for mold at the top. If there is some remove and give the mixture a stir. Do this every 2 days for a week. 

After a week, make sure to remove any mold at the top. Pour into food processor with the vinegar and pulse until smooth. Before placing hot sauce into it's final container, you will need to strain the liquid into a mason jar removing all the pulp. Once strained transfer to final container and seal. This will keep in your fridge for up to a year. 

Cucumbers

At this point in the late summer here in Minnesota, your cucumbers are almost done. But if you are like me you still have some in your fridge from previous weeks. Sadly they don't freeze well due to their high water content, but there are many great techniques you can utilize to use up your cucs; pickling, refrigerator pickling, fermenting, and infusing. I have highlighted most of them below. Vodka refrigerator pickles are similar to regular dill pickles, but instead of canning them you store them in the fridge. I promise they won't taste like vodka and they will have a nice crunch to them. The cucumber infused vodka on the other hand does highlight the spirit with a nice cucumber flavor. I included a drink recipe that will be perfect for upcoming cool evenings on the deck. My final recipe is a simple cucumber salad. It is very close to a greek salad but without the olives (you're welcome Steve). 


Vodka Refrigerator Pickles

This recipe comes from my lovely Grandma Joyce

6 c water

1/2 c canning salt

1 1/2 c distilled vinegar

1 c vodka - I like Prairie Organic

cucumbers - as many that can fit in a 1 gallon jar

3 yellow chili peppers - if you like a little spice

6 cloves garlic

2 dill weed sprigs

Add water, vinegar and canning salt to a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the salt. Once dissolved turn off heat and let cool. 

Wash cucumbers and peppers; and slice lengthwise. Peel garlic and place in a clean 1 gallon jar (or ice cream bucket). Place 1 dill weed sprig at the bottom and begin to fill with the sliced cucumbers and peppers, filling up to 1 inch from the top. Pour cooled vinegar/salt mixture and vodka into the jar. Place remaining dill on top of the cucs and put the lid on the jar. Store in refrigerator for a few days before eating to let the flavors develop. Keep stored in fridge and enjoy.


Cucumber Vodka

2 c cucumbers

2 c vodka

Note* I recommend using a high quality vodka for this recipe, Prairie Organic is always my go to. 

Slice cucumbers into coins. Place in a clean quart-sized mason jar and add vodka. Screw on lid and place in the fridge for 1 week. After 1 week, your vodka will be ready. Strain the infused vodka into a clean jar. Discard cucumbers, unless you want to eat them as a shot. Store cucumber vodka in the fridge for up to 6 months (if it lasts that long).  


Cucumber Cocktail

Makes 1 drink

2 oz cucumber vodka

3/4 oz simple syrup

3/4 oz lime juice

cucumber slices

mint leaves

Place ice cubes in a glass and add vodka, simple syrup, lime juice and stir. Garnish with fresh cucumber slices and mint leaves. 


Cucumber Salad

This is a great side dish to any summer BBQ or picnic. If you are planning on eating it the same day you can skip the salting step, but if not I highly recommend taking the time. As mentioned above, cucumbers have a high water content. When using them raw they can turn any meal watery. If you salt them for 20 mins, you bring out extra water and can drain that off. 

1 lb cucumbers

1 tb salt

1 lb cherry tomatoes

1 small red onion

1/4 c olive oil

2 tb white wine vinegar

1 ts salt

1/2 ts pepper

thyme - as much as you like

Peel cucumbers or if you dont mind the skin, skip this step. Slice cucumbers into coins, if the cucumbers are large slice them in half as well. Place cucumber slices in a colander in the sink. Add salt and toss the cucumbers. Let cucumber mixture drain for 20 minutes. 

While cucumbers drain, slice tomatoes in half and cut the onion in thin slices. Combine olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and thyme in a bowl and whisk. Add all vegetables to a bowl and toss with dressing. For the tastiest results let sit for an hour before serving. 

Green Beans

I first want to start off this post by saying thank you for all the encouraging words I have received after going live with my first blog post. It truly is empowering to know so many people support your (crazy) ideas. I promise, I won't let you down!

Now bring on the beans. I have to say growing up I wasn't really a fan of the green bean. They were well.. green, and you really could only put so much butter on them, aka as much as your mom would let you.  I learned to appreciate this vegetable more after receiving pounds of them in my CSA box (really, green beans again?!). If anyone has a CSA now, I'm sure you know exactly what I mean.  I tried to get creative in how to cook them. One of my favorite ways to enjoy beans is by roasting them, which is featured in the dinner recipe below. 


Freezing

Green beans are a great vegetable for freezing due to their low water content. They do require a two step process of blanching and an ice bath. These steps help the beans hold their shape and prevents them from getting soggy when thawed. In the winter I love to pull these guys out of the freezer and throw them into stir fry's, chili's, or vegetable soup. 

Ingredients

Beans - as many as you don't want to or can't eat

Wash and chop your beans in the desired size for freezing. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Fill a large bowl with cold water and a tray of ice cubes. Blanch the beans for 1-2 minutes. Immediately place the beans in the cold water for a few minutes. Once cooled, place in a colander to drain. Place beans in freezer containers and note the vegetable, date, and volume. 


Canning

Growing up, every summer I watched my mom can all the delicious vegetables that my dad grew in the garden.  To me, summer isn't summer without some canning. The great part is, you can do as little or as much as you like. Canning does require some specific equipment but it is easy to find (here) and affordable. If this is your first time canning, I would highly recommend reading Ball's Canning Guides. They explain the equipment needed and go into detail about the safety of canning. 

This recipe is adapted from Liana Krissoff's, "Canning for a New Generation". You can find her book here

Ingredients

2 lbs green beans

4 cups distilled vinegar

3 tb kosher salt

5 sprigs fresh dill weed

5 cloves garlic, whole

5-10 dried red hot red chiles

Fill a canning pot with water and bring to a boil. Wash pint jars in hot soapy water, then place in the canner for 10 minutes to sterilize. Wash lids in hot soapy water and place in a heat proof bowl, set aside.

While your jars are sterilizing, trim ends off green beans and then trim to 4 1/2 inches long. By cutting the beans to this length you are leaving about a half inch of headspace in the jar, which is important for sealing. Peal your garlic cloves. 

In a medium pot, add vinegar and salt. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the salt. Once the salt has dissolved turn burner off. 

After 10 minutes, remove your jars from the canner and place on a heat proof surface. Pour some of the boiling water from the canner over your lids. Place a clove of garlic and chile in each jar. Add beans until full, packing in a vertical manner. Add vinegar mixture. It is important to leave a half inch of space but also make sure the beans are covered. Add the dill weed on top. Take one lid out of the hot water and wipe clean, place the lid on jar and screw on the ring only going finger tip tight. If you screw the ring to tight the lid will not seal. 

Once the jars are ready, slowly place in the canner. Process jars for 10 mins. Remove from canner and place on a heat proof surface to cool. The lids will start to seal when you hear a "pop". If they do not seal within an hour, you can use a new lid and reprocess in the canner. Let jars sit undisturbed for 24 hours. After that time, you can remove the ring and move to a pantry or basement shelf for storage. 


Dinner

Nothing is easier for dinner than a one pan meal! I tried Becky Hardin's, of The Cookie Rookie, honey mustard crusted salmon with roasted veggies. You can find her recipe here. I was able to use tomatoes and green beans from my own garden! I did make two substitutions. I used almond flour to make the dish gluten free and instead of making the honey mustard dip, I used a bottled honey mustard sauce with jalapeños. So good! 

Zucchini

I think the zucchini is one of the most versatile vegetables around. It can be used in savory dishes or in sweet dishes, eaten raw or cooked.  Sometimes it’s big or small, yellow or green.  The zucchini is also known as the summer squash and is part of the squash family. The zucchini plant can grow fairly large and produces pretty yellow/orange flowers that can be eaten as well (recipe to come). I grew zucchini in my garden this summer and soon realized that it's a plant you need to pay attention to or else you will end up with zucchinis the size of your arm!


Freezing

One of simplest methods of preservation you can do is to freeze your vegetables.  Zucchini meet box grater, and GO! A food processor works great too. Before freezing, make sure to squeeze as much water out of the grated zucchini as possible. Make a note on your freezer container that includes the name, date, and volume. This winter when you are missing warm sunny summer days, I will show you how to use up this frozen mass of greenness.

1lb zucchini grated

After grating zucchini, place in a colander and squeeze excess water. Weigh or measure grated zucchini and place in a freezer safe container. Note ingredient, weight/volume and date. Keep in freezer for 6 months.


Quick Pickle

Another way to use up that arm sized zucchini is by doing a "quick pickle". Quick pickling is the lazy (or smart) version of canning. Instead of doing a water bath canning process (we will get to that soon), your veggies are added to a heated vinegar mixture and that will be kept in the fridge, instead of the pantry.  You only need the most basic kitchen equipment: a pot, knife, cutting board and mason jar. A mandolin slicer  also works well instead of a knife if you have one. It also requires ingredients that you may already have at home: water, white vinegar, sugar, and salt. To fancy it up, add some spice! My favorite right now is curry or turmeric, as you can see from my recipe below.

1lb zucchini sliced thinly in ribbons or coins

1 small white onion sliced thinly

1 c water

1 c vinegar

2 tb sugar

1 ts salt

1 tb turmeric *optional

1 tb mustard seed *optional

Add water, vinegar, sugar, and salt to a pot and heat over medium high heat. Stir until the sugar and salt have dissolved, turn off heat. Place zucchini and onion  in a heat proof container (a quart sized mason jar works well) and pour brine over the vegetables. Let cool and keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.


Dinner

To me this salad is the essence of summer, and it uses up a lot of zucchini. The first time I had it was at a restaurant in Minneapolis.  I liked it so much, I made it the next day with the ingredients from my CSA box! Plus it’s easy, as promised. You will see this common trend on The Northern Feast, meals do not have to take all night to make.

1lb zucchini

2 c cherry tomatoes

2 tb olive oil

1 tb white wine vinegar

2 tb lemon juice

1 tb fresh thyme

½ ts salt

¼ ts pepper

2 tb pine nuts

sprinkle feta cheese *optional

Slice zucchini into about 3” long by ¼” thick matchstick pieces. You can use knife, mandolin slicer or fancy spiralizer.  Slice cherry tomatoes in half and mix with zucchini in a bowl. In a separate bowl whisk together olive oil, vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper. Pour over zucchini/tomato mixture. Add pines and feta. Enjoy!

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