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Hope you are all well… Happy First Day of Autumn!
I am back from taking a month off for some much-needed rest and relaxation and to catch up on a few things we needed to get done around the house. I am rested and ready to cook, share recipes and prepare tablescapes…..
This time of year is bittersweet for me… Leaving the beach and the great hot summer days behind and getting prepared for cooler days, earlier sunsets, and all the fall treats and traditions.
Every year when we transition from summer to fall, I start making recipes that use the last of the summer vegetables before the pumpkins and squash arrives. Our bountiful summer gardens are coming to an end about now and we want to hold on to those summer flavors just a bit longer.
In the next few days, I will be posting a few of my favorite end-of-summer recipes. These are the recipes that have become a tradition in my Italian family.
The first recipe is a vegetable stew. My mother would always take the last of the summer harvest and make a vegetable stew with all the odds and ends that are left on the vine.
Some years yielded more zucchini than tomatoes or more eggplant than green beans -whatever the case, my mother made it work and it was always delicious. Feel free to experiment with different flavor combinations.
Nice and hearty and served simply with grilled ciabatta bread rubbed with garlic or a loaf of crusty Tuscan bread. Topped with grated cheese, it is always delicious. Over the years I like to serve this with polenta* topped with grated cheese.
This recipe is called “Giambotta” and it has basic ingredients but you can add or subtract whatever ingredients you prefer. There is no right or wrong, it depends on what you grew in the garden and what you want to add.
Giambotta can be a side dish or a main course if you add some protein such as chickpeas or cannellini beans.
And a great dish if you have guests that are vegetarians.
3 TBSP olive oil
2 – 4 garlic cloves- minced
1 small onion-sliced
3 carrots- peeled and diced
3 stalks of celery-diced
4 small red potatoes- washed & diced
Fresh parsley (approx 2 TBSP)
4-5 vine tomatoes diced OR 1 (28 oz) can of crushed tomatoes
1 can (14 oz) of low sodium chicken broth
2 cups green beans – fresh and blanched is best or frozen is fine
1 medium eggplant –diced in cubes (peeling optional)
2 zucchini- diced in cubes
1 (10 oz) box or bag of frozen peas
Red & green bell pepper or 4 Italian frying peppers, sliced
1 Cup grated cheese
Salt & pepper
1 tbsp. dried oregano
Fresh basil (approx 5 leaves-chiffonade)
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. dried Italian seasoning
(1 can chickpeas or cannellini beans- rinsed and drained -optional)
(Parmesan rind- optional)
(1/2 cup white wine – optional)
- Sauté onion in olive oil for 5 minutes over medium heat, season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes
- Add garlic, carrots, parsley, celery, peppers, and potatoes, and sauté for 10 minutes
- Add fresh diced tomatoes OR 1 can of crushed tomatoes, broth, and green beans, season with oregano, Italian seasoning, bay leaf, fresh basil, and Parmesan rind & white wine (if using).
- Cover and simmer for 30 minutes to cook the sauce (taste for seasoning – additional salt & pepper can be added)
- After 30 minutes—Add eggplant, peas and zucchini, cannellini beans, or chickpeas (if using), and simmer on low for an additional 30 minutes
- Remove bay leaf and Parmesan rind before serving
Sprinkle with grated cheese.
This meal can be served with polenta. *Polenta is a northern Italian coarsely ground cornmeal. When freshly cooked it is soft and creamy and is a gluten-free substitute for any recipe that calls for pasta.
When polenta cools, it firms up and can be sliced and fried or layered like pasta sheets.
The old-fashioned way to cook polenta took roughly 45 minutes to cook stirring constantly but now there are many companies that sell instant polenta that cooks between 3-5 minutes. Here is an example of one brand, so you know what to look for.
- 1 (16 oz) box of instant polenta
- 3 tbsp butter
- 1 cup grated cheese
- 1 cup mascarpone cheese (optional) OR
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (optional)
Follow package directions. When the polenta is done, take the pot off the heat, and then add butter and cheese, AND heavy cream OR mascarpone cheese (if using).
Serve soft polenta in a shallow bowl and add Giambotta on top.
Cooks Note: when my mother made this dish, any leftover soft polenta was cooled on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Spread the polenta out as flat as possible. Once the polenta has hardened and cooled, cut out rounds with a wine glass or cookie cutter or cut in slices, and store in the refrigerator overnight.
The next morning, my mother would fry the polenta in a 1/2 cup of olive oil or butter in a large skillet on both sides until golden (then drain on paper towels), or broil for 3 minutes on both sides. Serve with scrambled or fried eggs instead of toast.
Extra rounds/slices can be wrapped in wax paper in a container in the refrigerator. You can refrigerate them for up to 5 days or store them frozen, for up to 3 months.
If you don’t want to make your homemade rounds you can buy them. I have never used this product myself, but I see the rounds in the dairy case. Pre-cooked, just slice, heat, and serve.
(Photo courtesy of Amazon.com)
I hope you have an opportunity to try these recipes and enjoy them.
Until my next post, make every day a celebration!