We are at the end of summer here in New England. Technically the first day of autumn was this week – but today it is in the upper eighties, so it very much still feels like summer – as it often does in September.
One of my favorite things to do in September is visit our local farm as often as possible. It is my number one priority on Saturdays – the errand I absolutely have to run, because the farm is not open on Sundays and there is no way I can get there before it closes during the week.
I love the farm in September because nearly of their vegetables are available and abundant AND their apples are in. There is nothing better than eating an apple that just came from the tree. I’ve heard a food rumor that apples you get at the grocery store are often weeks from being on the tree, if not months. If that is all you ever have you would never know the difference. But when I eat the apples from the farm I can taste and feel how fresh these apples are. Is it ok that I don’t want to do anything with these apples (for once I don’t want to make a pie, a crisp or even apple sauce) I just want to eat them. They are that good!!
Anyhow. I have been using this amazing produce from the farm all summer long to make my lunch salads. Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, scallions, etc. (now their carrots are in too – and I can’t say enough about them – carrots and hummus are a go to snack) My go to for protein in my lunch salads was always a hard boiled egg. This was my favorite thing to eat for lunch this summer.
The other thing that SC and I have been making and loving lately is our Summer Vegetable Ratatouille. All of the vegetables we use for this dish are from the farm (except for the large can of tomato that we get from Costco – in interest of full disclosure). In the last three weeks we have made this dish twice – and every time we make it, we have it for dinner at least three nights in a row. SC always adds a protein to the Ratatouille and sometimes I do. Sometimes I’m really happy with just eating a lot of fresh vegetables!
Our baskets when we go to the farm in preperation for ratatouille:
Ratatouille comes together quickly in the pot, and I love that it is a one pot recipe. BUT before you get that far, there is a LOT of chopping involved. I’m lucky that I’m good at chopping and I like doing it. It goes pretty quickly and SC mans the stove and stirs the vegetables that are on the heat as I’m still chopping.
Summer Vegetable Ratatouille has 1 good size onion, 2 cubanelle peppers, 2 medium zucchini, 1 large eggplant, 4 cloves of garlic (smashed and minced), 1 large can of chopped tomatoes and juices, water (at least 1/2 cup – sometimes more).
I always chop the onion first and put that in our French oven pot with two tablespoons of olive oil (which is already heated over medium heat). As the onion sautees I add 1/3 tsp of Himalayan salt (I get mine from Trader Joe’s). Next on my list to chop are the cubanelle peppers. I like to sautee the peppers and onions first because they can use some extra cooking time – they are sturdy and can stand to be cooked down a bit.
As those are cooking in the pot, I chop up the zucchini and eggplant. When I add these veggies to the pot, I add another small pinch of salt (maybe another 1/3 tsp?) for the eggplant’s benefit. These all cook together for at least five minutes, then I add the garlic. After a minute of letting all of this come together in the pot, I open the can of tomoatoes and add that in. To get the tomato that is still in the can (there is always extra stuck in there!) I add the water to the tomato can, swirl it around and dump that mixture into the pot. Then I add a few cranks of freshly ground pepper into the mixture. Stir everything around.
You can let this cook together on low for 20 – 30 minutes. (But if you’re in a hurry you can eat it after ten minutes of heating all together.) While this is cooking away on the stove, I usually decide what I’m going to eat with the ratatouille. Sometimes I eat pasta, sometimes polenta, and SC always likes to have a chicken sausage. We prep whatever combo of these we want – and thankfully they are all easy and relatively quick to prepare. Oh – and we always have some sort of rusitc bread, too. Because we love bread way too much. Seriously – can’t get enough. Yum.
The first ratatouille of the season we made pasta to go with it – and in this photo I served up way too much pasta and not enough vegetables (I quickly went back to the kitchen to fix this mess up – but putting another scoop of ratatouille in my bowl) But I love this photo because you get an idea of how fresh and delicious this stew is. It smells SO amazing as it cooks and as you eat it:
The ratatouille we made last night we had with pollenta and chicken sausage. I really loved switching out the pasta with pollenta. I would definetly do it again. It seemed lighter with just a little polenta as I can sometimes over eat when it comes to pasta (shh – it’s a secret!). I always garnish my ratatouille with fresh parsley and a touch of freshly ground pepper.
If you are looking for something to make with a lot of late summer vegetables, I highly recommend a ratatouille. It is easy, relatively quick, and can give you a healthy meal for a couple of days – all pluses in my book!