I know I’ve featured summer’s fruits and vegetables quite a bit in recent weeks, but there is just such a variety of fresh, healthy, tasty produce available this time of year, I can’t help but share recipes that include them. This week is no different. Summer vegetables are the best.

Our family’s favorite vegetable is sweetcorn. We just stocked our chest freezer with bags of the golden vegetable raised on my husband’s home farm. The bags are stacked next to packages of beef, grown on the same farm, and pork, raised as our daughter’s 4-H projects.

There are also bags of rhubarb from this spring, a few packages of peach pie filling and whole strawberries waiting to be used in smoothies this winter. I’m not a canner, but I sure enjoy seeing the freezer full going into the cooler months.

I see there is still just a bit of room left in that freezer, so I’m going to freeze eggplants for the first time. Wanting to get it right, I searched for guidance in how to best freeze this produce. The steps I found come from pickyourown.com.

• Start with the freshest eggplants possible. If there is a delay between harvesting and freezing, store it in the refrigerator. Harvest it before the seeds mature and when the color is still uniformly dark.

• Some varieties freeze better than others. The traditional black varieties hold up better than the purple Chinese and Thai types, but in many dishes, it does not matter.

• Start a large kettle or pots of water heating. Fill about two-thirds full with water and add ½ cup of lemon juice for each gallon of water. Also prepare a large bowl of ice water for the eggplants after blanching.

• Wash the eggplant in cold water.

• Cut off about ¼ of an inch from each end, then use a regular vegetable peeler to peel the eggplant.

• Working quickly so that it does not discolor, slice into 1/3-inch slices.

• When water is boiling, add eggplant to the kettle and blanche for 4 minutes, starting the timer as soon as you place the eggplants into the boiling water. Cover the kettle and boil at a high temperature. (You may use the same blanching water over several times, but be sure to add more water from time to time to keep the water level at a proper level.)

• When the time is up, quickly remove the eggplants from the water with a slotted spoon and place into the bowl of ice water to cool for about 5 minutes. Quick cooling prevents overcooking. Keep adding more ice as needed.

• Drain thoroughly for 2 to 3 minutes.

• Place eggplants in labeled Ziploc bacs and remove as much air as possible. Use a vacuum sealer for best results. If you do not have a vacuum sealer, use a straw to suck out as much air a possible before sealing the bags.

• If you want the eggplants in slices for frying later, pack the drained slices with plastic wrap between the slices to prevent them from sticking together.

• Freeze bags for 9 to 12 months, preferably in a deep chest freezer.

It won’t be long before casseroles, stews, roasts and other fall and winter meals start appearing on our tables more frequently. I’m looking forward to that, but in the meantime, I’m going to do all I can to take advantage of the fresh produce this season, and even do a little freezing so we can enjoy that produce into the winter months.

Thomas can be reached at janellethomas@charter.net.

Best Baked Eggplant Parmesan

3 medium eggplants

1 tsp salt

1 C all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

¼ tsp pepper

2 large eggs

1 C panko bread crumbs

1 C Italian style bread crumbs

1 tsp garlic powder

2 C marinara sauce

8 oz fresh Mozzarella sliced

¼ C chopped fresh basil

1/2 C freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided

Slice eggplant into ¼-inch rounds. Lay out in a single layer on a paper towel lined baking sheet and sprinkle with salt. Let sit 1 hour to release moisture.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease 1 to 2 large baking sheets. Set up 3 shallow dishes for dredging. In the first dish, stir together flour, salt and pepper. In the second dish, whisk eggs. In the third dish, stir together panko bread crumbs, Italian bread crumbs, and garlic powder.

Working one at a time, dredge eggplant slices in flour mixture, dip in egg mixture, and then coat in bread crumb mixture. Place onto the prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Sprinkle on a light coating of parmesan cheese. Roast in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, flipping eggplant slices halfway through. Recipe and photo courtesy of thestayathomechef.com.

Spread 2 tablespoons of marinara into the bottom of a lightly greased 9x13-inch dish. Layer half of the eggplant slices onto the bottom. Top with half of the remaining marinara, and then layer on all of the Mozzarella slices. Sprinkle on half of the basil and half of the parmesan cheese.

Place remaining eggplant slices on top and cover with remaining marinara, basil, and Parmesan cheese.

Bake, uncovered, in the 400 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes until cheese is melted and the top is bubbling and lightly browned.

15 Minute BLT Pasta Salad

For the Dressing:

¾ C mayo (I prefer to use olive oil mayo to cut some fat & calories)

¼ C sour cream

1 Tbsp milk

½ tsp pepper

1/4 tsp salt

¼ tsp garlic powder

¼ tsp crushed red pepper — optional

For the Salad:

8 oz spiral pasta

3 to 4 C chopped romaine lettuce (or 10-oz package pre-cut romaine lettuce)

1 pint grape tomatoes, halved

1 ½ C shredded Cheddar cheese

1 ½ C bacon bits or pieces (not artificially flavored, about 6 oz)

Prepare the dressing by stirring together mayo, sour cream, milk, pepper, salt, garlic powder and crushed red pepper until smooth and well-combined. Set aside.

Prepare pasta according to package instructions. When finished cooking, drain well and transfer to a large salad bowl.

Add chopped lettuce, grape tomatoes, cheddar cheese, bacon bits/pieces, and your prepared dressing.

Toss/stir very well, until ingredients are well-combined. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Recipe courtesy of busybugeter.com.

Marinated Grilled Vegetables

1 6-oz zucchini, sliced into rounds

1 6-oz) yellow squash, sliced into rounds

1/2 yellow bell pepper, cut into strips

1/2 red bell pepper, cut into strips

1/2 red onion, cut into strips

8 oz white button mushrooms

1 C cherry tomatoes

1/2 C olive oil

1/2 C soy sauce

1/2 C lemon juice

1 garlic clove, crushed

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

Place vegetables in a gallon Ziploc bag. Whisk together olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. Pour over vegetables, seal bag. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Remove vegetables from marinade.

Prepare grill. Place vegetables in large grill basket. Place vegetables on grill and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until tender. Recipe and photo courtesy of plainchicken.com.

Stuffed Shells with Summer Vegetables

1¾ lb cherry tomatoes

Kosher salt

9 oz jumbo shell pasta

2 large ears corn, shucked

2½ C heavy cream

2½ tsp Maldon sea salt

¼ C extra virgin olive oil

1 red onion, halved and thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

Handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped

Pinch of red pepper flakes

½ lb zucchini, trimmed and cut into ½-inch cubes

5 oz green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

Handful of grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain well and place in a bowl of cold water. Let sit until cool, then drain opening side down onto a paper towel-lined plate.

Meanwhile, cut the corn kernels from the cob and set aside. Break the cobs into a few pieces and place in a medium pot along with the heavy cream and ½ tsp salt. Bring to a boil then remove from the heat.

Wipe out the large pot that you used to boil the pasta. Pour the oil into the pot and heat over medium-high. Add the onion and 1 tsp of the salt. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic and cook until golden, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, until the onions are very soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in half of the basil and cook uncovered for 8 minutes, or until the onions are lightly browned.

Add the tomatoes to the pot with the vegetables along with the remaining 1 teaspoon sea salt. Cook, stirring, until the tomatoes are broken down, about 12 minutes. Add the corn kernels and increase the heat.

Bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes. Add in the red pepper flakes, zucchini, green beans, and the remaining basil. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Fill each large shell with about 2 tablespoons of the vegetable mixture and then place it, open side up, in a 9x13-inch enameled baking pan. Repeat until all of the shells are stuffed and then pour any remaining vegetables over the pasta.

Discard the corn cobs and pour the cream evenly over the stuffed shells. Bake until the cream has thickened, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle on the Parmesan cheese and broil until it is light golden, about 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool for about 5 minutes and then serve. Makes 6 servings. Recipe and photo courtesy of joanne-eatswellwithothers.com.

Crustless Summer Vegetable Quiche

1 Tbsp olive oil

9 eggs

1/2 C water

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 small zucchini

Handful grape or cherry tomatoes

Handful fresh basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread the olive oil around the bottom and sides of a pie dish to prevent the quiche from sticking. Use a paper towel to make sure it’s evenly coated.

Add eggs, water, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to a bowl. Whisk together until thoroughly combined. Pour egg mixture into your greased pie dish.

Cut the stem off the zucchini. Peel the dark green skin and discard. Use a vegetable peeler to create zucchini ribbons. Stop when you reach the middle of the zucchini as it tends to be very seedy and may be too soft to produce ribbons.

Rolls the ribbons into little spiral and place them in the egg mixture. (They won’t all stay put, but some of them will. That way they’re not all lying flat in the dish.)

Cut grape tomatoes in half. If using cherry tomatoes, cut into thirds. Give the basil a nice chop. Add tomatoes and basil to egg mixture. Bake for 30 minutes. Let the quiche cool a bit and serve. Recipe courtesy of thewholecook.com.

Recommended for you