It is a good time to focus on cooking with fall vegetables

As the growing season comes to a close, our vegetable choices change. Eggplants, squashes, peppers and root vegetables move into the spotlight.

When choosing an eggplant at the farmers market, pick one that is bright, shiny and heavy-feeling. They will be available well into fall.

Peppers both sweet and spicy are harvested in late summer and early fall. Get to know the multitude of pepper varieties. Each has its own unique flavour.

Winter squash and zucchini of all sorts come into season in early fall and usually last well into winter. Squash can be picked before fully ripe and they will continue to ripen in a cool dark place. Pumpkin is the most well known of the squash family.

If we remember to eat the rainbow, we will have a good variety of nutrients. Vegetables are a good source of fibre, a multitude of vitamins and antioxidants. They are a good choice for a healthy diet with proven benefits for reducing blood pressure, helping in weight control and controlling cholesterol levels.

Eggplant parmigiana

  • 1 large eggplant, sliced into 1/4” (.5 cm) thick slices
  • 1 1/2 c. Italian seasoned bread crumbs 375 mL
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 c. milk 125 mL
  • 4 tbsp. vegetable oil, for lightly pan-frying 60 mL
  • 3 c. marinara sauce, homemade or store-bought 750 mL
  • 2 c. whole milk mozzarella shredded 500 mL
  • 1 c. parmesan cheese shredded 250 mL
  • fresh basil leaves chopped, for garnish, optional

Salt both sides of eggplant slices and place them in a large colander in the sink. Let the liquid drain for 45 minutes to one hour. When your eggplant slices have finished draining liquid, brush off the excess salt.

In two shallow bowls, add breadcrumbs to one and whisk eggs and milk in the other. Dip both sides of eggplant slice into milk egg mixture then cover with breadcrumbs, shaking off the excess. Place on plate or large baking sheet and repeat until all eggplant slices have been coated.

Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).

Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add one tablespoon (15 mL) of vegetable oil into the skillet. Once the skillet is hot, add eggplant slices to the skillet without overlapping them and cook on both sides until golden brown. Remove and set on a large plate lined with paper towels. Repeat until all are pan-fried.

In a large casserole dish, add one cup (250 mL) of marinara sauce to the bottom of the casserole dish. Add a layer of eggplant slices then using a 1/4 cup (60 mL), dollop marinara sauce on top of the eggplant slices. Do not smother the layers with sauce. Then sprinkle a generous amount of mozzarella cheese and parmesan cheese. Repeat the layers until you run out of eggplant slices. Top the casserole with more cheese before you place in the oven.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and brown on top. Use the broiler for five minutes to get the cheese brown.

Serve hot and top with chopped basil, if using.

Stuffed Bell Peppers

  • 6 bell peppers, any colour
  • 4 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling 60 mL
  • 8 oz. lean ground beef 250 g
  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 tomatoes, seeded and finely diced
  • red pepper flakes, as needed
  • 1 c. cooked long grain rice 250 mL
  • 1 c. grated monterey jack cheese 250 mL
  • parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Cut the tops off the peppers. Remove and discard the stems, then finely chop the tops and set aside. Scoop out the seeds and as much of the membrane as you can. Place the peppers cut-side up in a baking dish just large enough to hold them upright.

Heat two tablespoons (30 mL) of the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.

Add the beef, season with salt and pepper and cook, breaking up the lumps, until the meat is cooked through and just beginning to brown, eight to 10 minutes. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain the fat.

Wipe out the skillet and add the remaining two tablespoons (30 mL) olive oil. Add the onions and chopped peppers and cook until beginning to soften, three to four minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and a pinch or two of red pepper flakes. Cook until everything is heated through, then stir in the beef and rice.

Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Stir in monterey jack cheese.

Fill the peppers with the rice mixture and top each with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Pour a small amount of water into the bottom of the baking dish and drizzle the peppers with a little olive oil. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until the peppers are soft and the cheese is melted and lightly browned, another 15 to 20 minutes.

Blistered Padron Peppers

Padron peppers come from the northwest of Spain and served as a tapa, or small plate. They are also popular in California. Kaleidoscope Gardens in Dundurn, Sask., grows them in greenhouses and are offered at the Saskatoon Farmers’ Market.

They are considered mild, but occasionally there will be a spicy pepper in the bunch.

  • padron peppers
  • olive oil
  • sea salt

In a hot pan with a little oil or over a grill, blister the peppers. Do not char. The flesh is very thin.

Remove the peppers to a serving dish.

Drizzle with olive oil and top with a sprinkle of sea salt. Serve with crusty bread.

Jalapeño Popper Dip

  • 10 slices bacon
  • 1 – 8-oz. block cream cheese, softened 225 g
  • 1/3 c. mayonnaise 80 mL
  • 1/3 c. sour cream 80 mL
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder 5 mL
  • 2 jalapeños, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 c. shredded cheddar 375 mL
  • 1 1/2 c. shredded monterey jack 375 mL
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).

In a large non-stick skillet over medium heat, cook bacon in batches until crispy, about eight minutes. Drain on a paper towel-lined plate, then chop.

In a large bowl, stir together cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic powder, most of the cooked bacon and most of the jalapeños. Reserve some of each for topping, and one cup (250 mL) each of cheddar and monterey jack. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour this mixture into a small oven-safe skillet or baking dish and sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup (125 mL) each of cheddar and monterey jack and the reserved cooked bacon and jalapeño.

Bake until dip is golden and bubbly, 15 to 20 minutes. If desired, broil three minutes to get cheese extra-golden. Serve with tortilla chips or baguette slices.

Looking for COVID-19 coping stories

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What have you learned or what are you now doing differently?

Please share your experiences, stories and thoughts with us.

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A sample of reader replies will be shared in future columns.

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1000-3530 Millar Ave.,
Saskatoon SK,
S7P 0B6

All entries must be received by Dec. 7.

Sarah Galvin is a home economist, teacher and farmers’ market vendor at Swift Current, Sask., and a member of Team Resources. She writes a blog at allourfingersinthepie.blogspot.ca. Contact: team@producer.com.

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