Friday, August 8, 2008

Fresh Garden Medley

Friends came for breakfast several weeks ago, and as Ray and I were discussing preparation of various foods, I told him about the stew (for lack of a better word) I had just made. He tilted and tucked his head with a slight shrug to his shoulders, smiled and meekly asked, "But can I have at least a little piece of meat?" as he gestured with his thumbs and index fingers touching.

We laughed, and I said, "You don't miss it in this. Honestly. It is so flavorful and filling, very satisfying, and oh so tasty."

This is a meal I came up with last summer as we expanded our vegetable garden, and it went gangbusters. It is not your run of the mill stew that includes meat or poultry and a thick or heavy sauce, rather a cornucopia of color, simple, and with a little spice that delights in every sense. Any liquid comes from a few tomatoes and the vegetables. Serve it with a nice slice of a heavy multi-grain bread and a slightly chilled glass of your favorite Sauvignon Blanc, and it is . . . umm! As my brother always says, it is so good and so good for you.

Fresh Garden Medley


2 Tablespoons olive oil (or canola oil)
1 medium sweet onion, cut into strips (we grow Walla Walla)
1 sweet red pepper (seeded and cut into pieces)
1 eggplant, quartered and cut into 1 ” pieces (we grow * Ichiban)
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
Kosher salt (tiny bits, in increments... likely no more than 1/2 teaspoon in total)
Fresh ground pepper (according to taste)
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup fresh basil, then chopped (or if you don’t grow basil, 1/4 cup dried should do)
3-4 medium zucchini, quartered and cut into 1” to 1 1/2” pieces
1 yellow medium squash, quartered and cut into 1” pieces
1 - 15 oz can diced tomatoes, plus
1/4 can cold water

Note: When the green beans are available, I may add some of those.
* Ichiban are very tender, and I do not remove any skin.

Directions: Prepare all vegetables and set aside.

Place the oil in a large Dutch oven, heat and add onions. Cook for about 2 minutes, season with a touch of kosher salt and some fresh ground pepper, and stir. Add red pepper pieces and eggplant and sauté for a few more minutes. Add fresh garlic, a little more fresh ground pepper, cayenne, red pepper flakes, and basil. Stir and cook for another minute or two. Add tomatoes; then add cold water to the can to about 1/4, gathering any remaining juices and pour into pot. Add zucchini and squash and a few more sprinkles of salt and pepper, according to personal taste. (It takes so very little salt to bring out the fresh flavors.)

Stir until all vegetables are coated and heated through. Place the lid on the Dutch oven, slightly ajar, and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. We like our vegetables crisp, so be careful not to overcook. Vegetables from the garden to the table require so little cooking.

You know what else: since you made so much, tomorrow, this dinner is still exceptional.

Sure hope you enjoy the recipe.

Updated: 11 Aug08 with a little more detailed explanation