When Summer Won't Stop
Autumn in the South is a time of extremes: chilly nights, sweltering days, and azaleas abloom for the second time in a year.
It also means that until five minutes ago, I still had tomatoes and basil growing like it was July.
Smart gardeners weeks ago pulled up those spindly stalks, processed their pesto, and moved on to planting winter greens. But I just didn’t have the heart – my little plants were working so hard! – or the time to do it. And as a result, we went a full six months of the stuff.
A friend with a similar garden problem shared some peppers with me, and with that gift came an idea.
A light salad of tomatoes and herbs doesn’t appeal to our autumn appetites. Instead, we want more substantial dishes as the days grow shorter and we prepare to hunker down for winter. But we’re not quite ready for the rib-sticking fare we’ll need during the gray days of ice and snow.
So it makes sense to turn the last of summer’s harvest into dishes that are transitional, like the weather. Dishes that combine the last delicate flavors of the season that’s ending with the first hearty tastes of the one that’s beginning.
Now is the time for vegetable frittatas, gratins, ratatouilles, and stews. You can make a mélange of most anything, really, when you’ve got tomatoes, herbs, potatoes, squash, eggplant or greens.
And this may be the best thing of all: If the day you’re cooking is cold, you can serve these dishes hot. But if it’s one of those crazy Carolina days when the thermometer flirts with 80, you can serve the dishes chilled.
Happy fall, y’all.
No-Measure Vegetable Frittata
Oil or butter
Tomatoes, seeded and chopped or sliced
Peppers, seeded and chopped or sliced
Garlic and/or onion, chopped
Fresh or dried herbs
Eggs, beaten; 1 or 2 per person
Grated cheese, if desired
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Heat an oven-safe skillet (I use cast iron) over medium heat, then add enough oil or butter to coat the bottom. Sauté the vegetables, garlic, onion and herbs until cooked though. Then add the beaten eggs. Allow to cook undisturbed until the bottom is set, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add cheese if desired, then salt and pepper. Using a potholder, place the skillet in the preheated oven and bake until the top is set, about 10 – 15 minutes for up to 6 eggs, longer if using more. Watch to avoid burning and reduce the heat if needed.
Serve either hot or chilled.