This is the time of year where the farmers markets (and our gardens) are overflowing with the most beautiful fresh veggies! Although we all know this bounty is not going to last forever, we really really want it to - at least I do!
Don't worry it can ...well at least until next year's crop arrives!
This is a simple guide to help you learn how to prepare a few of the fresh veggies that are available now for your freezer to be enjoyed all winter long.
1. Eggplants and Zucchinis...
If you have ever planted zucchinis in your garden you know that they can really take over everything and eventually you have so many zucchinis you just don't know what to do with them anymore. You notice people start running away as you approach them to offer yet another zucchini! But yet, December comes around and boy do you miss those fresh zucchinis!
Here's how to preserve your lovely zucchinis and eggplants: slice into about 1/2 inch discs and brush with a touch of vegetable oil. Using a barbecue or indoor grill, grill on medium high heat for about 2 minutes per side. After they are cooked let them cool completely.
To freeze: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place cooked zucchini or eggplant discs in a single layer on the paper. Top with another sheet of parchment paper and add another layer of vegetable, continue adding layers until you have used up all your zucchini and eggplant discs. Cover tightly with saran wrap and place in the freezer for at least 6 hours or overnight. This step is really important to ensure that your zucchini or eggplant discs stay separate and makes it really easy to use in recipes later on. Remove from freezer and place zucchinis or eggplant discs in Ziploc bags and refreeze right away. Whenever you like, grab a few discs and add to sandwiches, pastas, pizzas and salads.
Here are some great recipes to defrost and use them in: Grilled Vegetable Sandwiches, Grilled Zucchini and Eggplant Tart, Eggplant and Tomato Towers or Spaghetti Topped with Grilled Zucchini and Olives.
For the eggplant, there is a second way to preserve. You can also cut them in half lengthwise and rub the flesh with a touch of olive oil. Place flesh side down on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake at 375 F (190 C) for 30-45 minutes until very soft. Scoop out the flesh into freezer bags and freeze. This can be used in recipes like Babaghanouj (Lebanese Eggplant Dip) or other eggplant salads.
2. Red Peppers..
Oh the beautiful red peppers that are available right now! Here is a guide to all the ways to roast and preserve peppers. When you defrost them, you can serve straight drizzled with olive oil or in salads, quiches, sandwiches and spreads. A couple of recipes to use them in are: Roasted Red Pepper and Spinach Quesadillas, or Roasted Red Pepper and Cumin Hummus.
Every time I go to the market, I just NEED to pick up a huge box of tomatoes, even though I know I already have so many in my garden! The boxes are GIGANTIC and beautiful, but so inexpensive ... it seems wrong not to buy it! The best thing to do with tomatoes is to roast them, and then freeze in small ziploc bags. Add them to your pasta sauces or serve in sandwiches later on. A few recipes to use them in are Papardelle with Roasted Tomatoes and Leeks, Roasted Tomato and Garlic Crostini, Roasted Tomato and Ricotta Tart, and Roasted Tomato and Poblano Soup.
Let's do anything we can to enjoy the beautiful veggies while they last!!