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Volume 37 Issue 19, - Aug 30 - Sept 5, 2007 now in our 37th season

Bounty from the Garden and the Sea

by Maryjane Mojer

We are a generous lot.  It's true that I haven't actually lived anywhere else long enough to become part of that community, and maybe there are other places where people are good at sharing, but I tend to think that this community is particularly good at it.  If someone is in need, everyone is alerted somehow and people give how and what they can.  As for sharing, this community is tops...I think.  A few extra scallops?  We knock on the neighbor’s door. Tomatoes coming fast and furious?  You're likely to find a basket on your step.  And while generosity is sweeter when it’s appreciated, there is a time in every gardener’s life when a quick hit and run after dark is necessary. Yes my friends, you’ve guessed it.  Zucchini time.

When the first few dozen find their way to your door, it’s always a treat. There’s some sort of seasonal amnesia that occurs from year to year that allows us to greet the first harvest with joy.  The second batch is usually met with a sigh and an “oh, more!  Thanks!”  From then on it’s no holds barred. Turning off the lights and ducking behind a couch is not unusual behavior for those of us who have F.W.G’s (Friends Who Garden) I have but one freezer and it can only hold so much zucchini bread.  My friends and family can only eat so much zucchini bread.  We’ve set up the fryer on the back deck, and have thoroughly enjoyed batch after batch…after batch…of fried zucchini.  Zucchini pancakes, zucchini with pasta, sautéed, grilled, stewed. Oy!

There is one final dish, however, that never seems to get old.  Ratatouille. I make it in large batches, and, if any is leftover I freeze it.  Yes, it’s absolutely true that it will change as it freezes.  The zucchini will be mushy when it thaws.  But thaw a bag, add cooked cannelini beans and fresh chopped kale or escarole and what a great winter supper you’ll have.

Ratatouille

This recipe makes a HUGE batch.  You can cut it in half or double it.  The proportions of the vegetables are essentially estimates.  We love eggplant, but if you don’t like it, leave it out.  You can substitute or add yellow zucchini if you have it, and a variety of colored peppers makes it even more beautiful.

Ratatouille is one of the most versatile recipes a cook can have in his repertoire.  It’s possible to make it in the winter, but there’s something about the hot summer days and cool summer nights that just make it that much more delicious.  We toss it with pasta, spoon it over grilled fish, top baked potatoes with it, and I’ve been known to eat it cold, straight out of the fridge. (A midnight snack to feel good about!  Glad my husband loves garlic!)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

(OK, I am a bowl addict.  I love to use bowls that give me enough room to mix well, and toss things around.  I have a couple of big, stainless steel bowls, and I love them.  That said, I have been known to mix large batches of cole slaw, potato salad, and, yes, ratatouille in my spotless and just cleaned kitchen sink. I won’t tell if you won’t!)

In your large bowl, start to layer the vegetables as you cut them:
3 pounds of eggplant, peeled cut into large dice
3 large onions, cut in halves and sliced thin
3 pounds of zucchini...depending on the size, you can just slice it in rounds or cut itin half and dice it.  Think bite size pieces.
6 cloves of garlic, peeled....I leave mine whole. It gets very sweet and mild after roasting. Kind of a treat for the cook!
6 to 8 large ripe tomatoes, large dice
8 peppers, total…mix them up. I like 4 red, 2 green and 2 purple. 
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup basil, rough chopped
1/4 cup fresh thyme
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons pepper

The measurements with the herbs are, of course, just estimates.  If you’re picking fresh herbs from your garden or buying fresh herbs from the farm,  I would suggest one bunch of  fresh basil, and 6 sprigs of thyme along with two stems of oregano.

Toss all of your ingredients together, and spread onto cookie sheets in thin layers.

Now, there are many, many, many types of cookie sheets.  Lots of them don’t actually have sides or edges—this is not the type I recommend, nor is it the kind you should use for this.  As the vegetables cook, they’ll release their juices which will flow right off the edgeless pan.  The pan that I use is a half sheet or a jelly roll pan.  They are multi-use pans, and are available at many restaurant or kitchen stores for anywhere from six dollars on up.  Just like bowls, I have a thing for pans (and forchairs, but that’s a story for another day).

Slip your ratatouille into your preheated oven, and stir occasionally.  Cook for about an hour, until the vegetables look as though they’ve given up.

One more zucchini favorite is...

Zucchini Pancakes

Grate enough zucchini to give you 2 cups. I like to let it sit for about a half an hour and squeeze out some of the moisture.  In a bowl, beat the following:

4 eggs
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tablepoons grated parmesan
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
Fold in your zucchini.

Preheat your griddle to about 375, or your cast iron pan over medium heat until hot.  Add about a tablespoon of vegetable oil to your pan, don’t let it smoke, and drop the batter by spoonfuls, spreading out slightly.  Let cook till bubbles appear all over the top, and flip over.  As you move it around a bit, you’ll feel it lighten up just a bit as the batter cooks and dries.

This is a great side dish for breakfast topped with a dollop of sour cream and ratatouille, and both make great sides for baked bluefish, which seems to show up in waves as well.  Every family has their own bluefish recipe. We had a couple of them, and they’re both family favorites.

Baked Bluefish with Gin

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  On a baking pan with sides, lay out your bluefish filet.  Douse the top generously with a shot of gin.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper, lay a couple of scallions across the top, and bake for about fifteen minutes.

The gin gives a wonderful background to the fish and cuts the oil a bit.

The second recipe is very, very common on island.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Lay your filets out on your baking pan.  Smear each filet generously with Hellmann’s mayonnaise.  Lay a few slices of sweet onion and tomato across each filet.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until fish is done.

Invite a few friends over, have them bring the wine, and send them each home with a recipe, a jar of ratatouille, and a basket of zucchini.  After all, you can never have enough…friends!

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