How to save your summer vegetable for your winter days

I usually plant just a few tomato plants, and a couple of zucchinis, as well as a couple of Lebanese cucumber plants, with a selection of mixed herbs.  My thinking is that I’ve not planted enough to go around when it comes time to harvest.  So, like many other people, I started adding tomato plants, as well as the others, just to make certain I’ll have enough.  At planting time, I’m usually salivating about the wonderful dishes I am going to make with the fresh produce.

But each year–and I never learn this lesson–after I’ve made “gourmet” tomato or zucchini dishes four days in a row, my family meekly asks if we can go out to a restaurant for dinner.  Or, when they ask if we can have pizza delivered to the house, I get the hint that enough is enough.  I saw a recipe the other day for “Pomodori ripieni,” which, translated means “tomatoes stuffed with tomatoes,” which pretty much describes what my family feels after several days of cooking our garden produce.

So, instead of over doing tomato or eggplant dishes, save them for the winter days when it became harder to find good vegetables or you are stuck home because of a blizzard.  But first, and most important, if you have too much produce, don’t over preserve.  After two years, I still have sauteed zucchini in my freezer that I froze back then, which I haven’t bothered to thaw out and cook since then.

The best thing, I have belatedly discovered, is to freeze what you need, then share the rest.  It can be shared with your garden-less friends, your neighbors, your church or the food bank.

For Herbs. (Basil, mint, oregano, thyme, rosemary, etc.) Wash them, and allow them to air dry, importantly, in the shade so the sun won’t change their color.  Once dried, you can put them in class jar and store until you need them.  As well, you can make cream or paste by putting the herbs -after being washed and air dry for one day- in a food processor with olive oil.  Use about one cup of olive oil for two cups of the chopped herb with dash of salt and teaspoon of fresh lemon juice.  Puree the mixture and put spoon one table spoon onto three inch square foil, fold to seal, and place each bundle on cookie sheet.  Freeze for couple days, and then place the frozen bundles into a freezer bag and keep in your freezer.  Be certain to label each bag of the herb so when you are ready to make pesto you will use couple of the frozen basil bundles or when you want to make roasted potatoes, you will use the frozen rosemary and so on.

Eggplant. Eggplant can be roasted  on a grill or in the broiler oven.  Once roasted, allow it to cool remove the skin, and mash the pulp, which can be frozen as is, and stored in the freezer.  It can be thawed and used later for omelets, (Julia Child calls it vegetarian caviar, or Baba Ghanouj,) Baba Ghanouj is a spread made by mixing the eggplant pulp with garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and one teaspoon of sesame seeds paste and a touch of salt.

Another way to preserve eggplant is to slice eggplant in half inch thick slices.  Brush with olive oil and broil until both sides are golden brown.  Allow them to cool, then freeze enough for one meal in freezer bag.  These slices can be used to make eggplant Parmesan, Greek Mossaka, and vegetarian lasagna.  Eggplant can also be cubed, broiled and frozen, then added as a pizza topping or with tomato sauce for pasta primavera.

Zucchini. Zucchini is our most prolific garden plant.  Zucchini can be pureed in a food processor and used to make zucchini bread or to thicken soup.  Zucchini can be sliced into one fourth inch slices, brushed with olive oil, broil until golden then frozen in a bag enough for a family dinner.  When you’re ready to use, take the porting out of the freezer, thaw it, then marinate it in olive oil, add lemon juice and a touch of mustard, making a wonderful appetizer for your family.

Another way to preserve zucchini is to cut them in half, lengthwise.  Drop them in boiling water for a couple of minutes.  Remove, and with a teaspoon, remove and discard the pulp.  At this point they can be frozen in freezer bag.  These zucchini can be later placed in baking tray, topped with any stuffing you like, topped with sauce and baked for great dinner.


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