September 6, 2008

Week 53

Welcome to the 1st annual STATE OF THE HARVEST newsletter. This week marks the start of our second year of this incredible adventure and the big story is YOU our co-producers who have invested not only your grocery money, but rearranged your weekly schedules to support this dream we’re pursuing together. We call you co-producers because that’s what you are. You’ve partnered with our merry little band of Organic farmers in an interdependent quest to change the way food is produced and distributed. All we can say is THANK YOU!!!
Some brief HISTORY. We started talking seriously and specifically about 26 months ago. We wrote the first check to the web guys 20 months ago. Kathy joined our team 14 months ago which really confirmed this was supposed to happen. 1 year ago, about 50 families stuck their necks out and subscribed sight unseen. We delivered to Kingsburg, Bakersfield and Tehachapi, and made some great new friends. 7 months ago we ceased hemorrhaging financially! Today there are over 1300 co-producers investing in their families’ health, our communities’ health, and the earth’s health in this most tasteful endeavor. From here it’s somewhat surreal that so many would grab on. We’ve really never had numeric goals, we just all want to do a great job each week and not let you guys down ever, but sometimes we do and it’s kinda like a kid being sent to the garden and not coming back with what mom wanted. Your overwhelming appreciation of what does come from the garden most of the time is so gratifying to all of our farmers that we want to always do even better next week.
MOTIVATION Why are we doing this anyway? Lot’s of reasons really.
1) All I was hearing was “I really want to eat Organic, but it costs too much, and the qualitie’s not too good.”
2) My neighbors were going broke one by one producing the very stuff consumers really wanted. **neither group was being served by the existing system. **
We’re here today as a result of asking “What would a system look like if it really valued both families equally?” “What’s essential to delivering it fresh, safe & efficient?” and then ruthlessly eliminating everything else.
FUTURE. One of the essential things is connectedness between the farm & co-producers & back. Videos help but farm tours I think will be key as we move forward. I have no idea how to do that but to try, fail, correct and try again. (Kinda like everything else.)
People, we’ve GOT to start eating grass finished, pastured everything. I mean beef, eggs, milk… It’s just got to happen. I’ve got to figure out how to get it to you affordably, it’s gonna cost more, but less when you factor in the doctor bills. More later, but this just has to happen for the sake of everything right and so, its going to be a high priority. You’ll see new products every few months this year as we can convince and recruit ranchers to participate. I know your family’s going to be healthier and that’s the whole deal.
The main point here is our gratitude to each one of you, our co-producers for joining, encouraging, supporting, promoting and enjoying the dream.

We have a vegetable this week that we know will be new to some of you and a long time favorite of others. It is okra, a vegetable that is at its prime during the hot summer months. Okra is said to have originated in regions of Africa. It made its journey to other parts of the world, during the 17th, 18th and 19th century. It is particularly popular in the south and is the key ingredient in gumbo.
When described by some the flavor of okra is compared to being between that of asparagus and eggplant. Others say that you cannot make a comparison. They characterize okra, when cooked, as having a delicate flavor with seeds that add a delightful quality with a soft unusual texture all its own.
The okra pods are ribbed inside and are filled with edible seeds. They also contain a gummy liquid that works as a thickener in many recipes including soups and gumbo. Keeping okra whole when you cook it will keep this liquid from oozing out.
Okra can be served raw, marinated in salads, or cooked. Okra goes well with tomatoes, corn, eggplant, peppers and onion. Whole pods also make excellent pickles. Fried okra is a staple of southern cooking.
Okra is an excellent source of fiber, protein, vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, C and folate. It also provides potassium and calcium. Fresh okra should be stored in the refrigerator either in a paper bag or wrapped in a paper towel in a perforated bag. If stored longer than 2-3 days okra will start to lose its freshness, flavor and nutrients. Cooked okra can be stored tightly covered in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
When you are ready to use your okra it should be washed under cold running water and if it is fuzzy the fuzz can be removed with a paper towel. After it has been washed pat it dry. If you are going to cook them whole this is all of the preparation required. You may slice off the stem end, or remove the cap if you prefer but don’t break the surface of the okra.
If you are going to use the okra sliced, cut off the stem end and slice crosswise to your desired length. If you are going to fry them toss them in cornmeal, if you want to add them to a salad try marinating them with onion, garlic, and tomato in your favorite vinaigrette salad dressing. Add them to your favorite soup and take advantage of their natural thickening ability. Combine them in your stew with your other vegetables
To freeze okra for future use blanch the whole okra pods for 2 minutes and then package for freezing. Prepared this way okra can be kept in the freezer for up to 12 months.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-October Sun Plums
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
-Sweet Corn
Don Warkentine, Kingsburg
-Clip Top Carrots
-Green Onion
-Romaine Lettuce*
-Italian Parsley
California Organic, Lamont
-Red Leaf Lettuce
-Crookneck Squash
T & D Willey, Madera
Family Farm Organics, Madera
-Acorn Squash*
Ginger Balakian, Reedley
*Denotes Large Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on day of delivery.

Shallots look like onions but have bulbs like garlic. They should be stored at room temperature away from heat sources like the stove. They should last several weeks if stored in this manner.

2 Tbsp oil 2 chopped onions
2 crushed cloves peeled garlic 3 tsp grated or finely minced fresh ginger
½ tsp chili powder ½ tsp ground turmeric
1 ½ tsp ground coriander 1 ½ tsp ground cumin
4 peeled, seeded, & chopped fresh 1 pound fresh okra, ends trimmed*
tomatoes Chopped fresh cilantro or mint for garnish

In a large frying pan, heat the oil and add the chopped onions. Cook over medium/high heat, stirring frequently for about 5 minutes. Toss in the crushed garlic and ginger and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring. Add the chili powder, turmeric, coriander, cumin and tomatoes, stir together and then add okra. Season to taste with salt and cover. Cook over gentle low heat for about 20 minutes. Uncover periodically and stir. Add a little water if it is sticking to pan. Check seasoning and serve warm with cilantro or mint sprinkled on top.
*Just cut the ends & keep okra whole. Cutting pods will make the okra ooze.Compliments of Chef Deb from A Cook’s Bible Seasonal Table, 2007

1/3 cup olive oil 1 tsp pomegranate juice
½ lb Okra, ½ inch slices ½ tsp honey
½ small onion, finely sliced 2 Tbsp lemon juice
10 cloves garlic, peeled 4 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped 2 Tbsp water

Heat oil in a large saucepan over high heat until smoking. Make sure the okra is patted dry before adding to hot oil. Cook until okra is golden crispy on all sides, 3-4 min. Remove okra with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel. Reduce heat to medium. In the same oil cook onion and 7-8 cloves garlic until soft, 8-10 min, stirring. Stir in cooked okra, tomatoes, both juices, honey and a bit of salt. Cook covered, until at a hard boil, 8-10 min. Meanwhile, in a mortar or food processor combine remaining garlic, cilantro and 1 tsp salt to form a pesto. Stir this into the okra with the water, reduce heat to low and simmer, without stirring until mixture thickens, about 20 minutes. Serve at room temperature with couscous.
Compliments of Denesse Willey adapted from Clifford A. Wright’s Mediterranean Vegetables

September 4, 2008

Week 52

******* Happy Birthday Abundant Harvest Organics! ******

This is the intuitive response of Americans to whatever the food scare du jour happens to be. Look at what we’ve heard just this summer. “Tomatoes are killing people,” “Tomatoes with the green calyx attached are okay but watch out for the regular ones,” “It’s probably just tomatoes from Mexico.” “It’s Peppers.” The public is confused and scared, yet not protected. When any commodity is mentioned, that industry is killed for at least the rest of the season. All the expense of producing that crop is lost. The families counting on harvesting those crops have to look for another job, yet a definitive source of the contamination just can’t seem to be identified. It’s like hunting with Dick Cheney, you just don’t know if your product is going to be next.
Every box of produce is labeled as to the producer and 99 out of 100 are labeled as to the exact field they came from so as to isolate the source, but it’s all for naught if that source can’t be isolated. In addition to our extensive daily sanitation, Lydia spends half her time filling out logs showing we did the sanitation. That same level of protection & paperwork is extending to the field, even though there’s never been a reported case of food bourn illness from stone fruit or table grapes.
Retailers are using these mountains of paperwork to build protection around themselves, yet doing nothing to address their own responsibilities. How about sneeze guards over the tomato display? How about consumers sanitizing their hands before they sort through the tomatoes?
FDA has the authority to yell fire in a crowded theater, but not the responsibility for all the people that get trampled.
Okay, so what’s a responsible consumer to do? I think like usual, it’s just common sense.
1) Processed produce (bagged salad, peeled, sliced etc.) accounts for some 97% of the reported problem, and for good reason. The exterior cell walls of whole produce protect them naturally from pathogenic invaders. When these are removed or violated, that protection is lost. The bagged salads are washed with chlorinated recycled water and sometimes the load is just too much for their chlorine.
2) If you buy your produce from a place where the public is allowed to handle it, it would be prudent to wash it before you serve it.
3) Know what country your produce came from. That wouldn’t have been an issue 20 years ago, because we fed ourselves and a good chunk of the world. We’re now a net food importing country and most of what we’re importing is fresh produce due to our significant labor cost and availability disadvantage. I don’t think it’s biased to say that U.S. farmers do a cleaner job.
4) Your gut instinct that Organic is safer is generally correct. Organic nutrition means stronger cell walls. The Organic certification process has a mandatory food safety component that isn’t always there conventionally.
5) Know your farmer’s heart.
6) Enjoy life with your family and be thankful. There’s just so many other things that are way more important. EAT HEALTHY!!!

Do you have a favorite recipe that, at times, you think you would like to give just a little extra boost? Have you ever thought about changing the herbs called for in the recipe, or even being so daring as to use a combination of herbs or “herb bouquet”? The French are known for cooking with a blend of herbs. The herbs you use in a dish will give it a subtle but distinct flavor. The key is to find the right combination so that one particular herb isn’t so dominant that the flavors of the others don’t come through.
We hope that one of the things you enjoy about Abundant Harvest Organics is the opportunity to try new things in new ways. In your box today is a combination of several herbs giving you just such a chance.
Whether you select certain herbs and bundled them together using a piece of cooking string, add them while you are cooking and remove them before serving, or mince them and use them in recipes we hope you will try something new.
Herbs are divided into groups of either mild or robust. The mild herbs are basil, bay leaf, dill, and marjoram. These herbs become milder when cooked and go well with other herbs. The robust herbs include rosemary, garlic, oregano, tarragon, thyme, sorrel, and sage. These herbs can be combined with mild herbs and are often used for braised, grilled, or roasted meats. They are also a tasty addition to soups and stews. Because herbs add flavor to your food they are great for helping cut back on salt, sugar and fat.
When using fresh herbs a general rule of thumb is to use 3 times as much as you would of a dried herb. Add fresh herbs at the end of the cooking process. Add the delicate herbs like basil, chives, cilantro, dill, parsley, marjoram and mint just a minute or two before cooking is finished, or sprinkle them on the cooked food. With the heartier herbs like dill seed, oregano, rosemary, tarragon and thyme, add them the last 20 minutes of cooking time.
Store fresh herbs in a perforated plastic bag in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator and wash them only when you are ready to use them. You may also trim the ends of the stems diagonally and put them in a glass with about an inch of water, cover them loosely and put them in the refrigerator. Change the water daily and this may keep them fresh longer.
Different combinations of fresh herbs make wonderful flavored oil or vinegar. If you have more herbs than you can eat try using them throughout your house with other flowers and enjoy the aroma.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Flame Grapes
Bob & Mona Warren, Kingsburg
-Herb Bouquet
-Arugula & Sorrel*
-Daikon Radishes
-Cherry Tomatoes#
-Italian Frying Peppers
Kyle & Michele Reynolds,
-Green Onions*
-Clip Top Carrots*
California Organic, Lamont
-Yukon Gold Potatoes
-Crookneck Squash
-Slicing Tomatoes
-Cherry Tomatoes*
T & D Willey, Madera
*Denotes Large Box Only
#Denotes Small Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on day of delivery.

Daikon is a large white Asian radish that can be eaten both raw and cooked. This radish will combine beautifully with other root vegetables like carrots, beets, celery root and green onions. Julienne a combination of these vegetables, add dressing and serve as a new and different salad.

Gingered Vegetable Stir-Fry Serves 6
3 Tbsp chicken broth
2 Tbsp rice wine or medium-dry Sherry
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp salt
¼ pound fresh shitake mushrooms, no stems, sliced 1/8” thick
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
½ pound carrots cut into julienne strips
½ pound daikon radish, cut into julienne strips (about 2 cups)
½ pound Napa cabbage, sliced thin (about 4 cups)
2 large garlic cloves, minced2 tsp minced peeled fresh gingerroot
In a bowl stir together broth, rice wine or Sherry, sugar, cornstarch, and salt until combined well. Set aside

Heat a wok or large frying pan over high heat until hot. Add oil and heat until it just begins to smoke. Stir-fry carrots for about 3 minutes. Add daikon radish and stir-fry an additional 2 minutes. Add mushrooms, cabbage, garlic and gingerroot and stir fry for about 2 more minutes or until carrots are crisp tender. Stir broth mixture and add to the vegetables. Stir-fry for 1 minute.

August 27, 2008

Week 51

We’ve got a family of Canadian geese that have decided they like our farm in the summer. There are about 18 of ‘em and they spend the night down here on the river, then fly a quarter mile up to the pasture where they graze with the cows and goats for a couple hours every morning. They fly off somewhere else during the day, but come honking back home every evening towards dusk. Canadian geese around here at least is a recent development of the last say 15 years in the winter, but now in the summer as well? I am hoping some of you could write & get me up to speed about what’s up.
Regardless, it’s sure cool to see ‘em coming through in their Vee, honking encouragement, or grazing together with always a few sentries keeping watch. It makes me contemplate the unforced rhythm and simplicity and order of their community and ask the question, “Who’s the bird brain here anyway?” You guys probably have life wired, but around here, we’ve got crews spread all over Christmas from March through January and February’s spent nursing blooms and bees through the rain. Chickens run year round and now we’ve started this year round subscription box of Organic produce you might have heard about.
The enemy of the best is the good and our life is really all about constantly identifying the best so we can ruthlessly say no to the good. It’s easier said than done because the good is so good. It’s just not the best.
And then there’s the tyranny of the urgent. Eisenhower said “The urgent is seldom important, and the important is seldom urgent” and he planned D day. Wow how my life gets run by the urgent and usually it’s somebody else’s urgent! Yet, we’ve got to have a servant’s heart…
While I don’t yet understand what Canadian geese are doing in Kingsburg in August, I do understand brown orbed spiders. These beautiful guys have a body the size of a dime or so and spin the most perfect Charlotte’s web type web you ever saw often spanning 10 feet between rows and a really powerful web at that. They are really the canary in the coal mine around here. They’re prolific in the Organic orchards and vineyards that I walk and nonexistent in the conventional. I don’t know how many bugs these guys must eat to get that big, but they’re sure impressive.
Another critter that’s made a huge comeback around here is the quail. There are literally dozens on every 10 acre Organic block because we’ve got cover (weeds) for ‘em to hide from predators. You just don’t see quail in a conventional field.
Lastly, the song birds. All of our farming is Organic, but half the fruit we pack for our neighbors is conventional. (A chunk of the Organic is packed as conventional as well just because despite all the hype, the market isn’t there yet, but that’s another newsletter) When I walk the conventional fields in the morning, it’s just business. How many, how big, when? Same job in the organic patches, but what a sensory explosion. First you’ve got crickets exulting in the dew of the new day. Songbirds exulting in their good fortune of either all of my fruit they want to eat, or all the crickets, and I can’t help but just stop and thankfully marvel. EAT HEALTHY

You see the term “seasonal” a lot on our website and in this newsletter. Some of you have asked what that means. First what is “seasonal” at any given time is related to where in the state, country, or world you live. Even in the state of California you will find various crops available at different times of the year, depending on location. The seasons for a crop are very much dictated by the climate and temperatures in an area. If you live in Southern California you may see produce available at a farmer’s market that is not available in Central or Northern California at that time of year.
Because of global trade the average shopper has become much less aware of what is actually in season in their area of the world. Almost any day of the year you can walk into a supermarket and purchase melon, tomatoes, and numerous green vegetables. We become so accustom to having almost everything available all year long that some of the anticipation of our “seasonal” favorites is gone.
When you eat “seasonally”, or with the harvest, you are eating and enjoying the produce that is being harvested locally throughout the year. How much better to anticipate and savor the taste of those grapes that are your summer time favorite when they are locally in season than to have them available all year, and become bored with them. They won’t have been picked two weeks ago and shipped thousands of miles either. The Abundant Harvest standard for local is the Central Valley of California. There may be times, during the winter months, that we will reach out as far as the Coachella Valley in order to provide variety.
There is not room in this issue of the newsletter to address all of the fruits and vegetables, or even all of the seasons but we will try to do so as we move from season to season. Right now the tree fruit is winding down and the grape harvest has begun. You will not notice much change in the vegetables until we are into the cooler months and then there should be some old favorites like green beans, broccoli and cauliflower coming along.
Every season is an adventure and every year the adventure can change because we cannot control the wind, the rain, the heat, or the cold. All of which have a hand in determining how well a particular crop, that the farmer has invested not only money, but hours and days and months into, will develop. The availability of a crop can change in a matter of hours that is why we let you know that the contents of your box may change up until the day it is packed.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Seasonal Stone Fruit
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
-Sweet Corn
Don Warkentine, Kingsburg
-Clip Top Carrots
California Organic, Lamont
-Hot Chilis
-Summer Squash*
-Mixed Cherry Tomatoes
-Red Onion*
Michele Reynolds, Kingsburg
-Red Leaf Lettuce*
-Yukon Gold Potatoes
-Crookneck Squash
T & D Willey, Madera
* Denotes Large Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on day of delivery.

What makes a chili hot is the capsaicin found in the ribs. To make a chili less hot remove the seeds and ribs, but it is suggested you wear gloves when doing so. If you eat a chili that is too hot don’t drink water that will only make it worse. Try drinking milk or eating some bread.

Savory Squash Casserole
4-5 summer squash 2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup evaporated milk 1/3 cup crumbled soda crackers
1 medium onion, chopped 2 Tbsp diced pepper, any color
½ cup grated cheddar cheese 1 tsp salt
1 hot chili pepper, diced or halved

Wash and slice squash. Cook covered until tender with not too much water. Drain and mash. Mix with other ingredients. Pour into a greased casserole. Bake at 350º for 25 minutes. Serves 8-10

Summer Squash Bread
3 eggs 1 cup oil
2 cups sugar 2 cups grated squash
3 tsp vanilla 1 cup chopped nuts
2 cups flour ¼ tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda 1 tsp salt
3 tsp cinnamon
Beat eggs, oil, sugar, and squash. Sift dry ingredients and add. Add vanilla and nuts. Bake at 350º for 50-60 minutes in two small loaf pans or one large loaf pan. Freezes well.

Hint: Chop or dice your vegetables and herbs and store them in separate containers or bags in the refrigerator. They will be ready to use in stir-fry, salad, or to make a hearty omelet with fried potatoes.

August 17, 2008

Week 50

One of my favorite publications is “The Stockman Grass Farmer”
It’s a little, homey newspaper that comes once a month with the purpose of sharing proven perspectives on raising and finishing livestock using only the grass from your own ranch. It comes with financial and marketing advice for cattlemen and while much of it is livestock specific, a lot is applicable to what we’re doing and would like to do.
As an example, we’re working hard to offer you Organically produced, grass finished beef that’s consistently enjoyable and affordable. Right now, you’re enjoying fresh Organically produced chicken and eggs that have the advantage of healthier birds without the antibiotics. I’d love to figure out how to offer pastured poultry & eggs with all the balanced nutrition that would bring you, but we’ve proven with our offering of the Heritage chicken, that regardless of the ideology, if it’s not affordable, even within this sophisticated clientele, it’s not going to sell. How do we bring efficiency of production, processing and distribution to a product that by nature, (now there’s a play on words) isn’t efficient? These are the sorts of challenges I enjoy putting my mind and experience to and the “Grass Farmer” helps encourage the process.
One of the regular contributors over the years has been Joel Salatin, a fellow who’s reached some notoriety recently by being profiled in “Omnivore’s Dilemma” as well as “Crunchy Con” as a man who’s taking on the above challenge successfully. The way he’s doing it with his pastured poultry however is by using conventional feed in addition to what the birds get out of the pasture. He cuts his grain bill in half, which makes his pastured product as affordable as organic. More nutritious pasture, less nutritious conventional grain, affordable, and just another real world example of the challenges of this whole thing. Joel is going to be speaking 9/01 from 2-4pm in Turlock. Just this week, I came within inches of offering you all grass finished beef from a rancher who does a good job EXCEPT : when he needs to he uses antibiotics, and he uses Ivomek to worm ‘em and when the flies get bad he nukes ‘em with pesticides and yeah, it’s grass finished & good and affordable with the omega 3 & 6 ratios right, but how can we put our name on that?
This is real life application here folks. You guys know who your farmers are. You can see the integrity by name and it’s not just a bar code on the bottom of a clam shell. It’s real folks, waging real cultural battle on your behalf with real world ethical decisions to be made everyday while still being held accountable by the bottom line! Okay Vernon, calm down now.
Hey, Shukhrat’s jumped right in here & put the first videos up. Just click the video button and you can see what’s going on over here. I think you’re going to dig it and our hope is to further close the gap of connectedness between our farms and you all. That coupled with chef Deb (who’ll be videoed also) is making August an incredible month,

Even if you have seen the recent Disney film you may not know that ratatouille is a popular dish that originated in the Provence area of France. It was a dish commonly prepared during the summer months using the variety of fresh summer vegetables that are available.
Ratatouille may be served as a side dish, or as a main meal accompanied, perhaps, by rice. There are as many variations to ratatouille as there are cooks who prepare it. No matter the cook you will find that the key ingredients are tomatoes, garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers and herbs. The debate usually revolves around how the ingredients are prepared and assembled. You will find chefs who will serve the ratatouille, after being simmered in the pot, as described in today’s recipe. Others will make a sauce of the tomatoes, onion, garlic, and bell pepper and layer it in a casserole with the eggplant and zucchini, then warming it in the oven.
However you cook it ratatouille is one of those dishes that the flavor increases after the first day. If you allow the liquid to reduce, ratatouille is a delicious filling for omelets and crepes. Try it at room temperature, or cold, with toasted baguette or sliced French bread.
If your eggplant is large be sure you peel it, slice it, and sprinkle it generously with salt. Let it sit for about an hour and then rinse it well in cold water and squeeze it dry. Pat dry with paper towels and then prepare as directed in your recipe. The salt helps pull out moisture and bitterness.

This week we bring you another variety of grapes from Bob and Mona Warren. This variety of grape was developed in California and is the result of a cross between the ever popular Thompson and other grape varieties. Flames, in addition to the Thompson, have become one of the most popular varieties. They are seedless, crunchy and have a sweet-tart flavor.
One acre of Bob and Mona’s land is devoted to several varieties of grapes including the Summer Royal variety you got last week and this week’s flames.
This year’s flames aren’t coloring well but the crunch and sweetness are definitely there and we know you are going to enjoy them.
In a couple of weeks, as the grape harvest picks up, we will be making grapes available as an add-on. The grape harvest goes into the fall months and will include several different varieties.
Keep your grapes unwashed in a plastic bag in your refrigerator. When you are ready to use them just rinse in cold water and serve them, or add them to recipes.

Here is what you will find in this week’s box.
-Seasonal Stone Fruit
The Peterson Family, Kingsburg
-Flame Grapes
Bob & Mona Warren, Kingsburg
Family Farm Organics, Madera
-Red Bell Peppers
Troy Huckabay, Kingsburg
-Clip Top Carrots
-Italian Parsley*
California Organic, Lamont
-Juliet Tomatoes
-Torpedo Onion
Michele Reynolds, Kingsburg
-Yellow Spanish Pepper
-Roma Tomatoes
T & D Willey, Madera
*Denotes Large Box Only
Contents may vary due to availability on day of delivery.

By now you have seen the new, sturdier, small box. Yes, they do fold. On the ends of the box you will see “PUSH”. The end panels push in and then the box collapses.

Ratatouille 3-4 Servings Recipe courtesy of Craig Claiborne
1/3 cup olive oil
2 or more garlic cloves, peeled & chopped
2 cups (1 large) sliced onions
3 cups (2 medium) sliced zucchini
4 cups (1 small) cubed, peeled eggplant
2 bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips *any peppers will do fine
1 ½ cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
Optional: 1 tablespoon capers
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Heat oil in a large skillet, add the garlic and onions and sauté until the onions are transparent. Meanwhile, slice the squash and peel and cube the eggplant. Add squash, eggplant and peppers to the skillet, cover and cook slowly about 20 minutes. Add the tomatoes and capers and simmer, uncovered, until the mixture is thick, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot or cold.
Note: Eggplant may be grilled. If eggplant is large it should be salted, rinsed and then squeezed dry.

Red Pepper Salsa
2 red bell peppers, sliced 1 medium cucumber, chopped
2 small onions or 1 large, chopped 3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 small hot pepper, minced
Mix together and chill allowing flavors to blend