If you, like me, were gullible enough to believe the weather prediction that snow was on the way, you might have a lot of produce sitting on the counter. In a panic to save the harvest, stripping the plants seemed like a good idea at the time.
But the snow never came to the lower elevations and now, working around the heaped piles of produce on the counter, you can’t help but feel a little silly for panicking.
First you try nonchalance, acting as if you never see your counter anyway. You make coffee, build a sandwich, and rattle about the kitchen without really making eye contact with the mountain of fruit.
Then you pull one or two items from the mound, feeling good about using them in dinner. “I’m making progress!” you think, blithely ignoring the avalanche of food cascading across the kitchen.
Finally you face the harvest, overwhelmed by the thought that if you don’t spend the next few days preserving that bounty, you – not the snow – will be the downfall of the season. Approach that pile with a plan, and you’ll be enjoying the fruits of your labor all winter long.
Roast, then freeze those peppers. If you have a lot of peppers, consider taking them to a farm stand where they have a roaster. For a small fee many places will give your peppers a spin. True, cooking shows may demonstrate the technique of laying a giant pepper on a gas stove top burner, crisping the skin one side at a time. But there isn’t one pepper in the pile, there are 30, and you’d like to have a life at some point during the weekend.
If you’d like to do it yourself, fire up the grill, wash the peppers and pat them dry. Put as many on the grill as it will hold, set the heat up medium high, and watch those peppers. Turn them every minute or so until the skin is mostly charred. Pull the peppers from the grill with tongs and pop them in a paper bag, curling the top over to let them steam.
Let the peppers sit for 15 minutes, then pull them from the bag (use plastic food gloves to protect your hands), separate the chilies into individual freezer bags in the amount you use for recipes, and freeze. When you thaw the chilies, the skin can be removed at that time.
Ripe melons can be diced and frozen. Cut open and remove seeds, cut off the rind, then slice the melon meat into one-inch chunks. Lay the chunks in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze. Once frozen, put the melon pieces into a freezer bag for storage.
Dehydrate summer squash for use in stews during winter. Wash and pat dry the squash, cut into one-quarter inch thick slices. Follow directions on the dehydrator for drying.
Eggplant can be frozen if you peel, slice and blanch it in boiling water with ½ cup of lemon juice to one gallon of water. After the slices cool you can pop them in the freezer, but the texture may be a bit soft when you thaw it. I’m not sure eggplant can stand to be more slimy – I think I’ll just roast mine, scoop it out and make baba ghanoush out of it.
This delightful middle eastern-style dip is perfect with pita slices; Tyler Florence and JoAnn Cianciulli of the Food Network have a recipe that sounds worth the time, garnished with pistachios for extra flavor.
Time to get in the kitchen.