Last weekend I took some time to just relax on the dock here at Green Heron Pond and reflect a bit. The morning was still cool, almost hazy rather than overcast and I noted how the pond and landscape are preparing for the changing of the season. The tall Cottonwoods and Willows have grown weary of heat and wind; leaves yellowing and puffs of breeze sending the tired leaves down to the water. Once floating the leaves sail by like myriad small sailboats, drifting to the shoreline, piling up- creating a “veggie stew” for the ducks and small Bluegills to stir around and consume. There is also the occasional young Bullfrog poking its head out from among the dead leaves and algae that seems to appear after heat and haze. Tiny bulging black eyes staring until the Bullfrog decides I am really looking at it and it takes a plunge.
My little garden however finds the cooler temps and less searing heat to be a time of lush greenery for the herbs, deep purples for the Japanese Eggplant and vibrant red orange for the tomatoes. These 3 garden elements plus the multitude of fresh peppers available at this time of year give me ideas for simple but thoroughly satisfying recipes at the season’s shift. I will share a couple today!
Colored Peppers Soup
Ingredients: 1 1/2 Tbs butter, 1 bag of mini colored peppers (or 2 regular sized Red or Orange Bell Peppers), 1/2 onion, 2 big garlic cloves, 20-22 oz chicken broth, 1/2 cup milk or cream, salt and pepper to taste, sprig of fresh Oregano, sour cream or Greek Yogurt.
Directions: Melt butter then add chopped up peppers and onion sauteing over a medium low heat until soft and beginning to caramelize (around 10 minutes). Add chopped garlic last 2 minutes of the saute time. Then add the chicken broth, salt and pepper to taste, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Let saute/broth mixture cool for a few minutes and then carefully pour into a blender and blend for 2 minutes or until it reaches a smooth consistency you like. Pour back into saute pan adding the milk or cream, stir and heat just until it is nice and warm. Lightly crush the sprigs of oregano in your hand adding a sprig to each soup bowl, then ladle warm soup over sprig. Add a small dollop of sour cream or yogurt, serve and enjoy. Serves 2 people as a meal (with a salad or some crusty bread with Gouda Cheese) or 4 people as a first course.
Eggplant, Tomato and Basil Sauce (This is actually a variation on a wonderful recipe from the book The Joy of Pasta by Joe Famularo and Louise Imperiale, published in the 80s. The book is full of wonderful Italian pasta sauces, pasta recipes and information about Italian cooking. (It would be a wonderful cookbook to check out if you are as crazy about Italian food as I am!) But since I never met a recipe I could resist “tweaking” it is changed for my purposes…
Ingredients: 1 eggplant, 1 Tbs olive oil for sauteing, 2 large garlic cloves, 1 nice sprig of Basil, 1 8oz can of tomatoes (you can use Italian plum or just regular diced tomatoes), 1/8 tsp of red pepper flakes and pasta of your choice. (I use whole wheat or ancient grains pastas or a baked spaghetti squash for my “pasta” usually.)
Directions: Wash and remove ends of eggplant, peel and slice thinly. Add a bit of salt and let it sit for just a few minutes while prepping tomatoes etc. While eggplant is sweating, use a food processor to puree your tomatoes just a little (I like it a little lumpy). Slice garlic cloves, basil and set aside also. Heat olive oil in pan, add eggplant and fry on both sides until a nice golden color. Remove eggplant slices from oil and place on a paper towel. Add garlic and chopped basil to the already hot oil and stir about 30 seconds before adding the pureed tomato mixture. Add red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste and simmer sauce uncovered for 30 minutes or until tomatoes and oil begin to separate. During the 30 minute cooking time for the sauce- boil water for pasta (or have your spaghetti squash already baking) and have pasta ready when sauce is cooked. Add eggplant back into the sauce the last 2 minutes of cooking time to warm it back up. After the eggplant is warm add a small amount of sauce to the cooked pasta and coat. Then quickly add the rest of the sauce. You can grate a bit of Parmesan on if so desired. Generously serves 2.