Our tomatoes are finally red and ripe, the red leaf lettuce is looking gorgeous and our local farmers market is bursting with all kinds of goodies.
But as wonderful as a bountiful August harvest can be, it also means school, and therefore fall, is right around the corner.
Lazy nights at the grill will soon be replaced with digging around in some Target bin for the last pair of Fiskar blunt-tipped scissors. Fun Mom, the one who counts hours in a chlorinated pool as a fine bath-time equivalent, will have to turn into "Get to bed now!" Mom. That makes August the perfect time to capture the flavors of summer for all the hunkering down to come.
It's also what gave me the idea of making a ratatouille. It would freeze perfectly and would make great use of almost any vegetable that caught my eye at the market.
As New York Times columnist and author Mark Bittman says, don't let the fancy French name turn you off. Just respect each vegetable's individual cooking time and don't overthink it. Easy.
So with easy=awesome in mind, I took what vegetables I had on hand last week and created a spicy southwestern version — no recipe needed.
I started with sweet corn. I had a ton of it. But instead of freezing on the cob, I decided to start my ratatouille by roasting the corn (off the cob) in a simple dry pan. Delicious on its own. Same treatment for sliced onions and a clove of garlic (roast with skin on, squeeze out the roasted garlic goodness when done) which I chopped up once cool.
With the roasted corn, onions and garlic aside, I next cooked down with olive oil a large eggplant (don't rush this part) that I had previously salted, sliced, and then rinsed. Give it a solid 20 minutes or so, cubed.
Then I added a ton of zucchini and yellow summer squash and one whole jalapeno, seeds included.
It needed something to bind it all together so in went some chopped tomatoes, a bit of juice from a can of tomatoes, and a can of red beans.
The result was something between a salsa and a ratatouille, to be honest, but it was good! Roasting the corn before made the flavor a little deeper and the jalapeno offered great heat.
I ate this alone, with chips, and over scrambled eggs the next morning. My 9-year-old son liked the tomatoey broth of it, but did declare it "way too" spicy.
Everything else went into the freezer for some chilly night in the future, when nothing so fresh as a just-picked eggplant or as delicious and sweet as a tomato you've watched grow all summer will be anywhere near the kitchen — the vegetable version of a great new backpack to look forward to.