By Sara Pitzer
For The Salisbury Post
This has got to be the best time of year for cooking, especially if you have a garden or visit a farmers’ market. I think a trend toward simplicity and eating what grows locally is gaining strength. Fresh produce in season tastes so good you don’t have to do much of anything with it to have a wonderful meal.
The question I hear most often at the farmers’ market is, “What do you do with ________?” Fill in the blank with almost anything from eggplant and cauliflower to kohlrabi and Swiss chard. Farmer’s market conversations often center on trying something different with familiar vegetables such as peppers and cabbage, too.
Ethnic “countryside” recipes tend to emphasize seasonal produce, sometimes using a little meat ó often chicken or fish ó without making it the main part of a meal.
Vegetarians have a lot of imaginative ideas to contribute too, because they can’t rely on meat for the variety in their meals. Obviously you can enjoy a vegetarian recipe without giving up meat, if you want to.
Here are some ideas for preparing local, seasonal produce that are as easy as opening a box of instant anything.
A frittata is just an Italian version of the omelet, differing only in being more dense with filling ingredients. One of my cookbooks has recipes for a frittata that workers carry in lunch boxes and eat without reheating, along with bread. That got me to thinking about the current restaurant fad of offering salads, especially Caesar salad, with chicken or fish on top. This recipe combines the two ideas, using garden produce and eggs in a frittata instead.
For the salad:
Use whatever variety of lettuces and young cabbage shreds you like, and just before serving, toss lightly with a dressing made of 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar for each quarter cup olive oil. Use a minimal amount of dressing. Add whatever chopped fresh herbs you have. If you like fresh basil include just a little.
For the frittata:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
A handful of chopped red or green bell pepper
1 small zucchini, sliced
1 small tomato, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 small boiled potato, peeled and diced
3 eggs, beaten
Salt and pepper
Heat the olive oil in an ovenproof skillet (preferably iron). Saute the onion, peppers and zucchini until soft but not brown. Add the potato and tomato and continue sauting briefly, then pour in the eggs. Salt and pepper to taste. Lower the heat just a little and allow the frittata to cook until it is almost done through. The top may still be soft. Put the pan under the oven broiler just long enough to brown the top and finish cooking, then allow the frittata to cool to room temperature.
To serve, cut the frittata into strips or small wedges and scatter on top of the salad after you’re dressed the greens.
Makes enough topping for 4-6 servings.
Sausage, Peppers and Onions with Polenta
If “polenta” sounds too foreign, say “grits.” Use whatever grits recipe you’ve become fond of and allow it to cool. Leftover grits will be just fine.
1/2 red bell pepper, cut in strips
1/2 green bell pepper, cut in strips
1 large sweet onion, sliced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
6-8 cooked breakfast sausage links (I use Organic Prairie brand)
Saut the peppers and onion in the olive oil until very soft and just starting to brown on the edges. Add the sausage links and continue sauting just until they are heated through.
Serve the onions, peppers and onions on top of fresh or reheated grits.
Makes 4-6 servings.
Cottage Vegetable Salad
In her “Sunset Caf” cookbook, Mollie Katzen offers a recipe for “Vegetable flecked cottage cheese.” That’s where I got this idea. In her version suggested as a breakfast item, the cottage cheese is basically just brightened up with finely chopped or grated raw vegetables.
Mine uses the cottage cheese as a binder for lots of chopped vegetables and, along with some good bread, makes a substantial lunch or supper. You could grate the vegetables in the food processor if you’re careful not to overdo it and create raw baby food puree, but I find something very satisfying in chopping each vegetable by hand and cutting each into a slightly different size or shape.
I’ll list the vegetables I used, but you should be guided by what’s available. If you get a chance to pick up some locally grown celery and carrots, you’re in for a treat because these have a full flavor that you don’t get from even the finest grocery store produce.
It’s important to use the best-tasting cottage cheese you can find. My personal choice is Organic Valley whole milk (4 percent butterfat) cottage cheese.
For each serving, allow about 1/2 C. cottage cheese and 1/2 C. chopped vegetables.
Turnip or kohlrabi (peeled)
Salt and pepper
Serve on leaves of romaine or other lettuce.
If you mix this much ahead of time, keep it in a covered container in the refrigerator and don’t dish out individual portions until ready to serve.
Visit Sara Pitzer’s Web site at www.planetpitzer.com.
By Sara Pitzer