Remember when we talked this spring about what to do when you’ve got more farmer’s market produce than you can use? Good times. Except, all that information is out of season now! It’s a whole new set of intimidating fruits and vegetables to deal with now. Oh noes! Relax, DC: I am here to help.
With all the weather extremes we’ve been having, some produce has been coming in at odd times (stone fruits were really early) and that’s messed up my routine a bit. But now that it’s late summer, it’s getting to be time for eggplant. And I don’t know if you are weak like me, but I have been known to buy stuff I’ve never cooked at the farmer’s market just because it looks so freaking pretty. Yeah, eggplant. And now I get it in my CSA box.
The thing about eggplant is that its flesh holds a lot of water and the skin can be kind of bitter. So your best bet preparations will account for that. Since squash and tomatoes are also in season right now, it’s a great time for ratatouille. If you’ve got your heart set on a pretty sliced ratatouille like the animated rat made, you can do that too with a mandoline.
If that doesn’t seem appetizing, or if someone in your house just doesn’t like eggplant, there’s the classic “disguise it” strategy: Eggplant Parmesan. I always say, if you don’t like how something tastes, you can always bread it, fry it, and cover it in tomato sauce and cheese. And yes, Alton Brown does say that eggplant absorbs too much oil, but I found that the oven-frying technique in the linked recipe prevented that. So, yay. Leftovers can get kind of soggy, but if you throw it on a bun and make a sandwich out of it, you won’t notice. Alternately, you can try Brown’s faux eggplant pasta concoction, but I haven’t tried that one myself, so you’re on your own there.
But eggplant parm has a lot of steps, so it’s kind of a weekend project. If you need something easier, you can try baba ghanouj. It’s a dip that originated in Lebanon, and at its most basic it’s seasoned more or less like hummus, and yet manages to taste not at all like hummus. It’s also really forgiving of substitutions and personal preferences for seasonings.
Okay, so you’ve mastered eggplant, but you’ve got green beans coming out of your ears. If you’ve taken our advice and bought a canner, it’s a good time to make dilly beans. If you don’t think you’d eat a lot of pickled green beans, give them to your friends because they’re good in Bloody Marys. (Once again, making the most out of summer produce comes back to alcohol.)
But the easiest thing to do is just blanch and freeze your green beans. You do know how to blanch, don’t you? No? It’s simple: bring a few quarts of water to boil. Throw in a few pinches of salt. Toss your green beans in and let them boil just until their color brightens up. Then strain them out of the water and dump them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Blot the water off them, throw them in a plastic bag, throw the bag in the freezer until it’s January and you’re desperate for some sign of summer.
What are your suggestions for getting the most out of late summer produce? No, seriously- I have more melon than I can possibly hope to eat in fruit salad form. What should I do with it?