Savour the last tastes of summer with these versatile dishes

This Sicilian vegetable dish is a versatile mixture of late summer vegetables. PHOTO: Flickr

It’s not easy to give up the freedom and pleasures of summer. However, one way to make summer linger is to use the fruits of the harvest to prepare easy September dinners. Any leftovers can be packed into lunch bags for the next day.

Here are just two edible memories to make the transition from summer to fall easier and tastier! Each mouthful is a reminder of sun and leisure.

Caponata

This Sicilian vegetable dish is a versatile mixture of late summer vegetables cooked up to a flavourful stew. It can be used as topping for pasta or an accompaniment to grilled Italian sausages, served chilled as a salad or spooned into tart shells or sliced bread as an appetizer.

8 cups (2 L) peeled eggplant, 1 unpeeled zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt

1/3 cup (75 mL) olive oil

2 cups (500 mL) (about 4 stalks) celery, diced

1 cup (250 mL) onion, diced (about 1 large)

2 cloves crushed garlic

1/4 cup (50 mL) red wine vinegar

2 tbsp (25 mL) granulated sugar

4 large tomatoes, skinned, seeded and finely chopped (see note below on preparing tomatoes)

1/2 cup (125 mL) green olives, sliced

2 tbsp (25 mL) capers

2 tbsp (25 mL) pine nuts

1 tsp (5 mL) salt

1/2 tsp (2 mL) black pepper

To prepare tomatoes: Place tomatoes in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand 30 seconds. Drain; rinse with cold water and skin tomatoes. Skin should come away easily. Cut tomatoes in half and seed by placing fingers inside the tomato and scooping out seeds or squeeze tomatoes in hands to remove seeds and liquid. Chop tomatoes into dice.

In a large mixing bowl, sprinkle the diced eggplants or mixture of eggplant and zucchini with salt. Stir carefully and set aside. Meanwhile in Dutch oven or large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Cook celery, onions and garlic covered about 10 minutes until softened and lightly browned. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. Remove from pan. Pour in remaining oil and cook eggplant over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes until lightly browned. Return celery and onion to pan with vinegar, sugar, tomatoes, olives and capers. Bring to the boil; reduce heat and cook uncovered about 15 minutes stirring frequently: mixture will be thick. Stir in pine nuts. Taste and add more salt and pepper if necessary.

Serve hot as a pasta sauce and sprinkle with cheese or cover and refrigerate for up to one week to use as a salad or appetizer. Makes about 8 cups (2 L).

Layered Mediterranean Salad

My neighbour Emily Grant made this tantalizing salad for a book club luncheon recently. It met with rave reviews. The salad is quick to prepare, full of flavour and leftovers make a tasty lunch the next day.

4 cups (1 L) arugula

1 can (19 oz/540 mL) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup (250 mL) each, marinated sliced artichokes

1/2 cup (125 mL) each, sliced green or black olives and thinly sliced sweet onion such as a Vidalia

2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped

2 cups (500 mL) ciabatta bread cut into 1/2 inch (1 mL) dice

1 cup (250 mL) crumbled feta cheese

1/2 cup (125 mL) thinly sliced basil leaves

1/2 cup (125 mL) herbed vinaigrette (more if required)

Tarragon Vinaigrette

1 clove crushed garlic

1 tsp (5 mL) salt

1/2 tsp (2 mL) black pepper

1 1/2 cups (375 mL) vegetable oil

1/2 cup (125 mL) cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

1 tbsp (15 mL) each, Dijon mustard and liquid honey

1 tbsp (15 mL) fresh tarragon leaves chopped

On a platter, sprinkle arugula evenly. In a mixing bowl, stir together chickpeas, artichokes and olives. Sprinkle mixture evenly over arugula. In same bowl, toss together bread cubes, feta cheese and tomato. Sprinkle evenly over chickpea layer and sprinkle basil leaves over this layer. Drizzle vinaigrette evenly over all. Taste and add more dressing if necessary. Serve salad immediately or cover and refrigerate up to one day ahead. If making ahead, omit dressing and add just before serving. Makes 4 servings.

To make dressing: In a food processor or blender, combine garlic, salt and pepper until garlic is chopped. With motor running add oil, vinegar, mustard, honey and tarragon. Puree until smooth. Pour into jar and refrigerate up to 2 weeks. Makes 2 cups/500 mL.


Jan Main is an author, cooking instructor and caterer. Reach her at janmainskitchen@gmail.com.

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