Fresh vegetables are abundant in these long summer days. Fortunately, so are recipes for them.
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This is the time of year when gardens and markets are overflowing with peppers, zucchini and summer squash. These are wonderful vegetables, to be sure, but sometimes it’s difficult knowing how to use so many of them. You can always make zucchini bread, but how much zucchini bread can a person eat?
Fortunately, these vegetables are extremely versatile. For starters, they are well-suited to the grill. And because we do so much grilling in the summer, it’s a simple matter to add some squash and peppers to the menu. Just halve zucchini and summer squash lengthwise, brush them with olive oil, and grill on both sides. Season with coarse salt, freshly ground pepper and some fresh herbs, and they may be the most popular part of the menu. You can treat bell peppers the same way, or you can grill them whole until they blister; pop them in a paper bag to steam; and, when cool, peel off their skins and remove stems and seeds. With smaller varieties, such as banana peppers and cayennes, slit them lengthwise to remove seeds, and grill them with stems attached.
Zucchini and summer squash can also be pan-grilled in a cast-iron skillet with a small amount of olive oil or brushed with oil and run under the broiler until browned. Peppers and squash can be fried or cooked with other vegetables in a ragout or stew. For instance, the French dish ratatouille combines onions, zucchini, peppers, eggplant
and tomatoes in a delicious mélange of flavors. Ratatouille and other summer vegetable preparations can be served
either cold or hot. Personally, I prefer them cold or at room temperature in hot weather.
The practice of stuffing vegetables is popular in Louisiana, as it is in many cultures, and offers countless possibilities.
In addition to peppers, zucchini and summer squash, eggplants and mirlitons are popular vessels for stuffings. But many other vegetables can be used in the same way. Potatoes, tomatoes, onions, grape leaves and squash blossoms, for example, lend themselves to this treatment. A platter of various stuffed vegetables is a visual and gustatory treat, a wonderful celebration of summer’s bounty. Stuffings can be as interesting and varied as the vegetables themselves. Meat and rice, sausage, seafood, or rice-and- herb combinations offer the opportunity for extensive experimentation with different seasonings and flavors.