We have had a substantial snow fall every month of the year here over the years, 2000 we had this kind of coverage in mid august for about 2 days, then it got warm again Part of living in the high country. I will try to post that same picture in one week.
Julie Van Rosendaal: What to do with the harvest rescued after Calgary's snowstorm
Harvest season arrived in Calgary early this year, with home gardeners scrambling to rescue their tomatoes and herbs before our premature snowfall.
As a result, many of us have produce sitting on our countertops, and farmers' markets are overflowing with the usual tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions and garlic - all at their peak, and as inexpensive as they'll get all year.
Here are half a dozen things to do with them. Most double as ways of preserving whatever you have bushels of - as cakes, stews and roasted veggies take up less space and are easier to store and freeze than their fresh counterparts.
1) Simmer a pot of ratatouille
The French Provençal vegetarian stew is one of my favourite things to make during the fall. The jumble of onions, garlic, zucchini, peppers, eggplant and tomato can be done in a pot on the stove or roasted in the oven, but I prefer the best of both worlds.
Have one pot simmering with caramelized onions, then quickly brown each batch of diced veggies for added flavour before tossing them into the pot. Simmer until you have a rich, soft, flavourful stew that's wonderful on its own, over pasta or even on toast.
Lots of good olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and chopped or crushed
2 medium-large zucchini, diced
2-3 red, yellow or orange peppers, diced
1 large eggplant, diced
Few sprigs of thyme and/or rosemary
6 Roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
Set a large, heavy pan or small pot over medium-high heat add a generous drizzle of oil and sauté the onions for four to five minutes until soft. Add the garlic and continue cooking for another minute or two.
Set a second large skillet over medium-high heat and add another drizzle of oil. When the oil is hot, add the zucchini (in batches, if necessary, so you don't crowd the pan) and sauté for two to three minutes until it's turning golden and browning on the edges.
Add to the skillet with the onions and cook the peppers and eggplant in the same way, adding extra oil in between each batch and transferring to the pan with the onions as it browns. Add the leaves off a few sprigs of thyme, and/or some finely chopped rosemary (pull the leaves off the stems first) to the onion pan and stir it often as it simmers.
By the end, the second pan will have lots of nice browned bits in the bottom. Add the tomatoes to the pan and stir for a few minutes until they soften and release their juices, loosening those browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add to the remaining ratatouille, bring to a simmer and cook, stirring often, for 30-45 minutes, or until the mixture is soft and thick. Season with salt.
Remove from the heat and serve warm, or cool completely and reheat the next day after the flavours have had a chance to get to know each other.
Makes lots of ratatouille - you should have plenty to freeze.
2) Bake a cake
What more comforting way to make use of zucchini than to bake a moist chocolate cake? This Bundt is easy to make and requires no frosting - but make sure you have some cold milk on hand.
Grated zucchini is also easier to freeze than the whole vegetable. Coarsely grate and freeze in one cup portions in zip-lock bags to thaw and stir into cakes, loaves and muffins.
Deep Dark Chocolate Sour Cream Zucchini Cake
½ cup butter, at room temperature
¼ cup canola, olive or other mild vegetable oil
1 ¾ cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup cocoa
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
2 cups grated unpeeled zucchini (1 medium zucchini)
½ cup chopped walnuts or chocolate chips, or both (optional)
Preheat oven to 325°F and spray a Bundt pan with nonstick spray. In a large bowl, beat the butter, oil and sugar on high speed with an electric mixer for two to three minutes, until thick and pale yellow. Beat in the eggs and vanilla.
In a smaller bowl, stir together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add a third to the butter mixture and beat just until blended. Add half the sour cream and do the same. Repeat with another third of the flour mixture, the rest of the sour cream and the rest of the flour. Stir in the zucchini and the nuts and/or chocolate chips - if you're using them - and pour the thick batter into the pan, smoothing the top.
Bake for an hour, until the top is cracked and springy to the touch. Invert onto a plate or cake stand while still warm. Serves eight to 16.
3) Roast some garlic
Alberta is a great place for growing garlic. While the local varieties like Russian Red are out, roast some heads to freeze or keep in the fridge to squeeze into mashed potatoes, spread on crusty bread when you're making sandwiches, or squish and shake into vinaigrettes and stir into hummus.
To roast garlic, cut a thin slice off the top of each head, place on a square of foil and drizzle with a bit of canola or olive oil. Wrap the garlic in the square of foil and place directly on the oven rack - you can do this while the oven is on for dinner - for about an hour. (You can roast garlic at low temperature or high - it will take slightly longer or shorter, accordingly.) Cool and store in the fridge, still wrapped in its foil, until you need it.
4) Make some salsa
Late summer-early fall is the best time of year to make your own salsa. While tomatoes are cheap and flavourful, dice them with onion, garlic, jalapeno and cilantro, or roast them first for a more dense salsa that even freezes well.
Roasted Tomato, Garlic & Cilantro Salsa
12-15 Roma or plum tomatoes
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise
canola or olive oil
1-2 jalapeno peppers
a handful of cilantro
Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Cut your tomatoes in half and lay them out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Add the garlic halves too. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt.
Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until soft, wrinkled and starting to turn golden on the edges. (Feel free to roast them longer.) Remove from the oven, cool slightly and scrape the tomatoes and any juices left on the pan into a food processor. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skins into the processor too.
Add the jalapenos and cilantro and pulse until chunky. Season with salt if it needs it. Let sit for a bit if you have time, to allow the flavours to meld. Refrigerate for up to a week.
Makes 3-4 cups.
5) Toss some pasta
Most late summer veggies go well with pasta. Tomatoes are an obvious pairing, but hardy kale and chard can be quickly sautéed with onions and garlic to toss with hot pasta and a handful of grated Parmesan cheese for one of the quickest dinners ever.
Spaghetti with Garlicky Kale or Chard
½ lb. spaghetti
canola or olive oil, for cooking with
1 onion, chopped
1 head garlic, cloves peeled and chopped
1 bunch kale or chard, torn (discard ribs)
a squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
lots of grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
Put a big pot of water on to boil, and cook the spaghetti. Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of oil in a heavy skillet and sauté the onion for about five minutes until golden. Add the garlic and cook for a few more minutes.
Add another drizzle of oil and then the kale to the onions and garlic. Add about ¼ cup of the pasta water to the pan as well. Cook until the kale softens and some of the liquid evaporates.
Drain the spaghetti, reserving a bit of the cooking liquid. Add the spaghetti to the kale mixture. Add lemon juice and a few spoonfuls of the reserved cooking liquid. Toss to combine, adding a handful of Parmesan cheese and more liquid if it's too dry.
Serve immediately. Serves two to four.
6) Roast your tomatoes and peppers
Roasting veggies like tomatoes and red peppers make them easier to store. And because they've already broken down, they can be frozen without becoming mushy when they thaw. They also take up less space in the fridge and are great for adding to sandwiches and pizzas - without the excess juice to water them down.
To roast tomatoes or peppers, halve them and place on a parchment-lined sheet. Drizzle with oil (if you like) and roast at 450˚F until soft and blistered. If you're roasting peppers, place them in a bowl and cover with a plate. When they're cool enough to handle, peel off their skins with your fingers.