CELEBRATING THE FARMER'S HARVEST
At first, the transition from summer to fall is subtle. The “back to school” rush is the most obvious sign for many of us, but there nature also sends us more subtle signs that cooler weather will soon be upon us. In spots, tree leaves are beginning to turn dusty brown, crimson red and mustard yellow, and night-time temperatures are gradually slipping down the thermometer. Out in the country, cornfields are turning the shade of wheat and the harvest colors are a cornucopia of beautiful shades of yellow, orange, red, forest green and buff.
Looking out our tall windows and walking under the canopy of our tree-lined street, in the Tuscany-Lombardy neighborhood of Baltimore, I enjoy the segue; nonetheless, this change brings on a tinge of sadness because it reminds me that soon I will say so long to my all-time favorite summer fruit -- the versatile, savory-sweet tomato. It’s also time to say goodbye to the prolific summer squash and zucchini families, and many other more delicate fruits and vegetables. Yes, I’m one of those sticklers for seasonal eating who recoils from eating anything that is not in season unless it’s frozen or traditionally preserved.
September marks an abundant time when summer's bounty is still plentiful--but waning--and autumn's harvest is beginning to emerge. Created in honor of this month's dual bounty, my recipe for a Zesty Medley of September's Harvest is a great example of combining summer and fall produce. I love the versatility of this dish--just about any vegetable works, so if you don't have one of the vegetables called for in this recipe, be creative and design your own combination. Follow the harvest and make this dish part of your year-round repertoire.
A ZESTY MEDLEY OF SEPTEMBERS HARVEST
Serve as a luncheon or light supper entrée. If you’re serving hardier appetites, it complements steak, chicken and/or fish. However you choose to serve it, offer slices of authentic French, Italian or Ciabatta bread with olive oil for dipping.
Hardier vegetables require longer cooking times than the more delicate vegetables. It’s important to cook vegetables until just fork-tender because you don’t want mushy vegetables. The amount of Old Bay seasoning is a matter of preference. I tend to be heavy-handed because the seasoning is what brings all the flavors together. I prefer a variety of cheeses, and, like the versatility of the vegetables, just about any flavorful good-melting cheese works.
- 2 cups julienned carrots
- 2 cups sliced celery, ¼-inch slices
- 2 cups bite-sized broccoli florets
- 2 cups yellow squash, ½-inch slices
- 1½ cups quartered sliced zucchini, ½-inch thick pieces
- 1 large onion, sliced
- 1 cup roasted tomatoes, chopped
- 1 cup fresh corn
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- ⅓ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 cups shredded cheese like mozzarella, Monterey Jack or sharp white cheddar
- Olive oil
- Set oven temperature to broil.
- In a large pot with a steamer, bring water to a boil. Steam the carrots, celery and broccoli until not yet fork-tender. Keep these vegetables in the steamer and add the squash, zucchini and onion. Cook until just fork-tender.
- Carefully transfer the vegetables to an 11 x 7-inch (2-quart) baking dish. Add the roasted tomatoes and corn and gently toss the vegetables to evenly distribute. Generously season the vegetables with Old Bay seasoning. Top the vegetables with Parmesan and shredded cheeses.
- Place baking dish under broiler and broil until cheese melts and turns a light golden brown. Drizzle the top of the dish with olive oil. Serve immediately.
Every year as the season turns, I continue to appreciate how they are parallel with the weather. Warm weather produces delicate fruits and vegetables (bathing suit food) and cooler weather supplies us with robust food—sweater and boot food. At the farmers markets summer merges with fall and it is the happiest time of year for me food-wise—tomato sadness aside. Tables are brimming with fresh summer goodness and autumn is introducing carrots, broccoli, hearty squash, leafy greens and so much more.