The last hurrah
On Thursday, Sept. 22 at 9:04 p.m., we passed the equinox, and September is winding to an end. So far, frost has escaped us — but the past week brought chilly temperatures. As I write this on Friday morning, the morning temp is just 37, and at about 7 a.m. my friends in Lake Placid saw snowflakes drifting in the air.
Soon the abundant tomato and zucchini season will be over. We must enjoy these delights while they’re still here!
Fresh, local tomatoes — ones that have not traveled from California in refrigerated trucks — are one of the best things about summer. Vine-ripened tomatoes in season are so delicious, they need little tampering.
Zucchini — and other summer squash, like patty-pan — are one of the most prolific summer veggies. Aug. 8 has passed, but it has been nicknamed “Sneak Some Zucchini onto your Neighbors’ Porch” Day! Even North Country gardeners are flooded with the summer squash — because you cannot grow just one zucchini.
The squash and zucchini members of the Cucurbitaceae family (which also includes cucumbers, gourds, and melons) have just 16 calories per cup — so they’re a great diet food! They also provide fiber, potassium, copper, manganese, phosphorus, vitamins A and C, folate and riboflavin. Tomatoes are one of the healthiest “superfoods” — they’re high in vitamin C and the antioxidant lycopene, which is known to reduce the risk of macular degeneration, some cancers, and cardiovascular disease. They also provide fiber, vitamins A and B, potassium, iron and phosphorus. And with just 35 calories in a medium tomato, they’re a dieter’s delight.
Both zucchini and tomatoes are versatile, adding flavor and color to a large variety of dishes. Use them in casseroles and seasonal skillet suppers.
They are both great raw in salads — and they also cook quickly. Combine them with pasta; stir into frittatas or quiche; add raw to salads.
It does take a bit of time to slice, chop, and dice veggies — but the recipes below come together quickly and are easy to prepare.
Enjoy these delights before the frost kills them and they disappear until next year.
Chicken and Summer Veggie Skillet
4 ounces pasta (about 1 ½ cups ziti, penne, rotini, etc.)
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast, about 1/3 to 1/2 pound
A little oil for the pan
1/2 onion — about 1/2 cup diced
About 4 to 6 cups summer squash and or summer beans (I used 1 cup beans, 3 cups yellow summer squash and 1 cup green zucchini)
1 clove garlic
1 or 3 tomatoes depending on size (1 or 2 cups diced)
1/2 cup minced fresh dill
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
Cook pasta according to package directions.
While pasta cooks, sprinkle both sides of chicken with salt and pepper.
Heat a little oil in a large skillet. Brown chicken over medium heat, 2 to 3 minutes per side, until cooked through. Remove to a plate and set aside.
Next, prepare the vegetables. Peel and dice the onion; add to skillet the chicken cooked in, sprinkle with salt, cover and cook on low.
Prepare squash and beans — rinse, remove ends, cut or dice. Add to the skillet with the onion. Sprinkle with a little salt. Peel and mince garlic clove and add. Cover and cook on low until tender.
Dice the tomatoes, and add to the cooking vegetables. Dice the reserved chicken and add.
In a small skillet or saucepan, melt the butter. Stir in the flour over medium heat, stirring constantly, until golden brown in color. Add a half-cup or a little more of liquid – this can be liquid from the cooking vegetables or water from the cooking pasta. Stir until blended, then stir into the skillet.
Chop the dill, and stir in.
Serve over pasta, or stir cooked, drained pasta into the skillet.
Zucchini Tomato Tart
3/4 cup walnuts
3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 Tablespoons butter
2 Tablespoons buttermilk, plain yogurt or milk
3/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 – 2 teaspoons olive oil
2 small zucchini (1 green, 1 yellow, if possible)
2 -3 teaspoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced (divided)
2 teaspoons fresh basil, divided
1 – 2 cups garbanzo beans (or diced, cooked chicken)
1 small onion
1 tomato, sliced
1 – 2 teaspoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
For the crust, blend walnuts, flour and salt in food processor until nuts are thoroughly chopped; add butter to form crumbs. Check for consistency; it should be crumbly yet soft enough to pat into a pie pan. Add buttermilk to achieve proper consistency, 1 Tablespoon at a time. Place in preheated oven and bake 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool slightly. Sprinkle with a little Parmesan cheese.
Slice zucchini. Place in the bottom of the crust in a single layer; brush with oil, and sprinkle with the garlic, basil, and a little more Parmesan. Top with garbanzo beans or chicken, sprinkle liberally with more basil and Parmesan Slice onion thin and place on top. Slice the second zucchini, place on top, and again, spread with olive oil, garlic, basil and a teaspoon or two of Parmesan. The final layer is tomato slices. Sprinkle tomatoes with freshly grated Parmesan and a little more basil.
Bake in preheated oven about 30 minutes, until vegetables are soft and cheese is melted.
Serves 3 – 4.
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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 found at www.yvonafast.com and reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.