Here is a picture of the carrot pancakes that inspired my daughter to enter her own version of the recipe.
The summer squash and tomatoes are starting to arrive now. I made two really delicious stews. This one is inspired by Martha Shulman's Mediterranean harvest cookbook, Turkish Ratatouille, on page 299. I really like this one because it uses everything that came in from our garden the other day, and it made me realize that some of these recipes reflected the experience of people who were going to the market or the garden and picking a few things to cook for lunch or dinner. The spices in this dish are just intoxicating.
Mix 1 tbsp tomato paste with 1.4 cups water, 1 tablespoon vinegar (I used fig balsamic which I'm enjoying right now), 1 tsp sugar or agave, 1 tsp ground cinnamon, and 1 tsp sweet paprika. Then heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a dutch oven or big frying pan and cook two cups eggplant, any kind, cubed, seasoned with salt and pepper. Transfer to a bowl or pot. Add a little more oil and add 2 coarsely chopped red or yellow onions, cook them a minute, and then add 2 teaspoons of crushed coriander seeds, or ground coriander. Add some chopped garlic now if you like. Then cook a minute more and add 2 chopped green, red, or yellow peppers and 2 sliced or cubed zucchini or yellow squash. Cook until wilted. Put the eggplant back in the pan and add the tomato mixture. Mix and add 2 bay leaves, and about 1/2 cup of chopped fresh herbs, especially mint and parsley. If you have some okra slice it and add. We had a few and it was a really nice touch. Season with salt and pepper and cook covered for an hour to an hour and a half. I actually put the dish in my roaster oven on our back porch to keep the kitchen cool and after we had dinner put it back for awhile, and then forgot about it. When I came back 2 hours later it was fine. The eggplant and okra had melted into the mixture and it was almost like jam.
I think this spice and tomato combo would be delicious with just about any subset of the veggies above, whatever you might have on hand. It would great with green beans, although you might want to blanch them for a few minutes first. You could serve this with just about anything. I'm going to use it as a sauce for pasta. It would make nice bruschetta for an appetizer, or just serve it cold with cut up vegetables like celery or carrots. Sprinkle some feta or goat cheese on top. You could also layer it with pasta and ricotta for a pretty amazing lasagna-style dish, or with bread for a gratin style, baked with some feta cheese and breadcrumbs on top. Other cheeses might work well too but for some reason feta comes to mind. Maybe because our amazing local goat cheese folks, Prairie Fruits Farm (they're at the farmer's market in Chicago, too) have local goat milk feta cheese for sale right now, and it's mild but slightly zingy flavor seems like it would complement the sweet, sour, and cinnamon notes in the dish.
The idea for the second stew came from a Weight Watchers Cookbook called Simply Delicious. It was easy but really good and my daughter and her friend who ate dinner with us both loved it.
Vegetable tagine with walnuts or cashews and prunes
Saute 2 chopped onions in olive oil and add 1 tsp of ground coriander. Saute until golden and add 1-2 cups cubed sweet potatoes, butternut squash, or yams, 1/2 or more cups of sliced carrots, 1 can diced tomatoes, or about 2 cups, 1 big can of chickpeas or about 3 cups, 1/2 cup veggie broth, 1/2 cup chopped pitted prunes, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil. Bake covered for about 45 minutes, or you could simmer this on the stove if you like. Stir in 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or cashews. I used lightly roasted unsalted cashews because that's what I had. I imagine you could substitute dried apricots or even figs in this dish. The recipe called for 1/2 bulb of fennel cut into chunks but I didn't have any so left it out, but it would be good.
I've also been making a lot of gratins. The one I liked the most so far was good hot, warm, and cold. I have to say it was so good cold I'd almost make it on purpose to serve cold. This is another recipe inspired by Shulman's book Mediterranean Harvest. I have been putting fresh basil into all of these dishes. I take the leaves and sort of loosely pile them up and then roll them length-wise and slice. You can cut it with a pair of scissors too, or kitchen shears. You want to use a sharp knife so you don't bruise the basil too much. I don't like chopping it because it seems to leave more of it on the cutting board than in my food.
Summer squash, bell pepper, and tomato gratin
Saute 1 large red or yellow chopped onion in olive oil until translucent and add 1 large chopped bell pepper, whatever color you have, some garlic, and about 4 cups of diced or cubed summer squash. Cook until the veggies are pretty tender but not mushy and add 1/4 cup of sliced basil. Mix in 1/2 cup cooked rice and season with salt and pepper. Beat 3 eggs and add 1/2 cup milk, 3/4 grated cheese (I used cheddar and Parmesan, but of course Gruyere would be classic). Stir in the cooked vegetables and combine and transfer to an oiled baking dish. Now cover the whole thing with sliced tomatoes. Spread breadcrumbs on top and drizzle with 1 tbsp olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes at 375 until browned and bubbling. I used a combination of red and yellow tomatoes and this was very pretty.
A few more ideas for all that basil:
Basil and eggs go together really well. A little grated Parmesan and sliced basil make a really special omelet without any extra cooking. If you have time saute some sliced onions and summer squash and add it to the eggs.
There are tons of good pesto recipes. I like to substitute free-range chicken or vegetable broth for some of the olive oil, and I used different nuts depending on what I have, walnuts, cashews, or pine nuts. You can add mint or parsley. The last time I made it I added basil, mint, olive oil, broth, cashews, Parmesan, salt, and lemon juice, and tossed it with pasta and sauteed yellow squash, zucchini, and red onions. I don't measure any of these ingredients, just toss them in and taste it until Iget it right. I always have to add more salt to pesto, for some reason, before it tastes just right to me.