One of the challenges of growing summer vegetables is figuring out what to do with surplus produce. How many loaves of zucchini bread do you want to bake? What do you do with a dozen Japanese eggplants? What about all the tomatoes? Salsa, tomato soup, and sauces can use up tomatoes (even cherry tomatoes), but what about the stuff you can’t or can’t freeze?
Sharing with the neighbors is nice, but if you notice them closing their blinds and pretending they’re not home when you walk up to their front door with another grocery bag full of zucchini, you might want to reconsider these freebies .
One solution might be to sit outside on your patio (no – not the compost bin!). Grill the vegetables!
For zucchini and summer squash, remove the stem and flower ends, then cut into slices about ½ inch thick. Slices cut lengthwise are easier to work with, but you can also cut crosswise. Sprinkle with some kosher salt and toss and let rest while the grill heats up. The salt enhances the flavor and helps pull out some of the excess moisture. After about 10 or 15 minutes, pat the slices dry with a paper towel and drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil—just enough to lightly brush them. Grind some pepper on top and grill on the grill until both sides are browned and tender. These are quite addictive and taste great in a salad or dipped in ranch dressing.
I used to hate cooking eggplant until I figured out how to do it right. I used to just peel and slice it and then try to fry it in some oil in a pan. Unfortunately, raw eggplant is really good at soaking up oil, so I’d let a lot of oil get through to end up with greasy, half-cooked eggplant. Then I got to know the magic of salt.
Peel the eggplant and remove the ends, then slice lengthwise or crosswise and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt. Table salt also works, but the flaky nature of kosher salt seems to be more effective at removing moisture. Line the slices with kitchen paper and place a weight (e.g. a heavy pan) on top. Wait about 20 minutes, then pat the eggplant slices dry and set aside. This process, called “cleansing,” also helps remove some of the natural bitterness.
Brush the eggplant slices with oil and grill until browned and tender on both sides. The cooked slices are especially good with a tahini-based dipping sauce, but I like them on their own.
Grilling also works with sweet and hot peppers, onions, green beans, mushrooms, and even romaine lettuce.
Grill thick slices of rustic bread, brushed with olive oil, then cut into 1-inch cubes. Mix with grilled vegetables, some freshly grated Parmesan cheese and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with some freshly chopped basil, oregano, and parsley, and you have a satisfying meal.
And your neighbors can stop hiding from you.