Celebrate our Adirondack harvest season

Harvest Frittata
(Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

Harvest Frittata (Photo provided — Yvona Fast)

Labor Day is past. School has begun. Leaves are starting to turn. Apples are dropping from trees. We had our first frost the first day of September. If you have a garden, hopefully you covered your basil, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and zucchini.

This is the time of year that farmers’ markets overflow with fresh produce. Incorporating all of the fresh vegetables and fruit can be a challenge. Canning, freezing, pickling, and drying allow you to store some of the season’s bounty for later use.

Veggies and fruit are best enjoyed while they’re fresh. Fresh veggies have the best flavor, and offer the most nutrition. Both taste and important nutrients are lost during storage and shipping; that is why it is important to buy local produce and eat it soon after purchase.

Celebrate this fall harvest season when farmers’ markets abound with fresh bounty and gardeners and farmers reap the fruits of hard-earned labor of spring planting, summer weeding and hours of tending.

. This is a great time of year to focus on fresh vegetables. The average American still eats only three veggie servings daily, and 42% of us eat just one or two – so many of us have a ways to go to reach the recommended five servings in our Dietary Guidelines. There are many health reasons to do so; veggies are low in calories and fat; they’re high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Antioxidants and flavonoids found in most veggies help protect against chronic diseases, like cancer and cardiovascular disease. Many scientific studies have emphasized the important fruits and vegetables play in a healthy lifestyle.

Like it or not, summer is over. Winter is around the corner. But in between are the glorious days of fall – with lots of vibrant flavors. In our North Country farms and gardens, now is the time to gather tender crops like tomatoes, zucchini, summer squash, cucumbers, peppers, eggplants and corn. These must be harvested before they are killed by frost. Fall greens like cabbage, kale and chard are plentiful. So are peaches, plums, pears, apples and grapes.

Although squashes, peppers, and tomatoes all originated in the New World, modern Mediterranean cuisine incorporates many of these vegetables. One example is ratatouille. This regional specialty from southern France, traditionally made with fresh summer veggies, can be eaten hot or cold. The stew includes eggplant, summer squashes, zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions and garlic. It can be a side dish or a complete meal when accompanied by fresh bread and cheese. It has even been used as a filling for omelets and crepes.

Gazpacho, a Spanish dish, is a cool, refreshing summertime soup made from fresh tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, celery, cucumber, stale bread, garlic, olive oil, salt and lemon juice or vinegar. Italian caponata and Maltese kapunata are other examples of regional Mediterranean dishes made with tomatoes, sweet peppers, eggplant, garlic, and sometimes, capers or olives.

Autumn is the season we bring back warm comfort foods. Hearty fare replaces light, cool summer salads. Soups and stews are designed to keep away the chill. Risottos and pasta dishes can incorporate lots of seasonal veggies.

Fresh vegetables add variety to quick, healthy meals. For quicker, easier choices, how about a quesadilla with peppers and corn? A stir-fry with fresh beans, mushrooms, peppers and chicken or steak? A frittata with tomatoes, summer squash and bell peppers?

September Harvest Frittata

Ingredients:

1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil or butter

1 medium onion

1 teaspoon salt, divided

1 medium bell pepper

2 small summer squash

1 large tomato

2 Tablespoons fresh minced herbs like basil, parsley etc., optional

2 to 3 eggs

1/2 cup cottage cheese

1 or 2 Tablespoons sharp cheese like Cheddar, feta or Parmesan

Directions:

Heat oil or melt butter in large skillet. Peel and dice the onion; sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt; cook, covered, over low heat about 5 minutes. Add diced bell pepper; stir and continue cooking another three to five minutes. Slice the zucchini, stir in, and cook 5 minutes. Add diced tomato and optional herbs; stir. Cook a couple minutes more

Beat eggs with cheeses and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Pour over veggies in skillet. Cover and cook on low heat until eggs have set.

Serve with fresh new potatoes for brunch, lunch or supper.

Serves two to three.

Harvest Skillet Dinner with Ham

Ingredients:

1 – 2 teaspoons olive oil

1 onion

1/2 teaspoon salt

8 – 12 small new potatoes (depends on size)

1 cup green beans

1 cup wax beans

1 cup broth (vegetable or chicken)

1 small bell pepper, (or 1/2 large), washed, seeded, cubed

2 cups cubed zucchini or summer squash

3/4 cup milk (not skim)

1 Tablespoon flour

1 cup diced ham or smoked sausage (like kielbasa or chorizo)

1/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese

Directions:

Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Peel and dice the onion; sprinkle with salt; cover and cook on low about 5 minutes. Cube the potatoes; cut beans in one inch lengths. Add to the skillet, stir, then add 1 cup of broth. Cover and simmer five to 10 minutes.

Next, add diced pepper and zucchini. Continue cooking until everything is tender, five to 10 minutes.

Place milk and flour in jar with tightfitting lid. Shake well, then pour into skillet and stir. Stir in ham and cheese. Cover and cook until sauce thickens and cheese melts.

Author of the award-winning cookbook Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market, Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com or on Facebook as Author Yvona Fast.

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