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Labor Day is the ‘unofficial’ end of summer, but of course, summer continues for some weeks – thank goodness!  I am, among other things, a caterer, and as the end of summer approaches, I am filled with ideas for what to do with the goods of the garden which continue to come in, in abundance.  I learned so much about cooking from the garden from my grandmother, Norma Racine, and a number of the recipes I use were hers, dating back 100 years or more.  There’s also one real prize-winner from the other side of the family that’s great for the High Holy Days coming right up…thank you, Estelle Weiner, of blessed memory.

So here are some suggestions for what to do if you’ve got too many of a few of those great things:

ZUCCHINI:
– Zucchini Relish –  delicious, tangy and sweet, very easy to make with a food processor
– Zucchini Bread and Butter Pickles – just like grandma used to make but with zucchini instead of cukes
– Zucchini Cinnamon Brownies – just fantastic, moist and delicious, even better with a few butterscotch chips thrown in
– Zucchini Bread – spicy and chewy and a welcome change from banana bread but made as a loaf
– Zucchini Pancakes – tiny little fritters, turning what can be a bland vegetable into a delicious accompaniment for your dinner
– Zucchanoes – scooped out zucchini ‘boats’ stuffed with chopped tomatoes, onions, peppers, bread crumbs, olive oil, cheese and spices, then baked
– Zucchini/pear soup – delicious cold or hot, and all-vegetarian
– Zucchini parmesan – just like eggplant, but made with thin-sliced zucchini (which I grill rather than bread and fry)
– Zucchini/potato/dill/shallot soup – almost like a vichysoise, and again, good hot or cold

CUCUMBERS:
– Cold cream of cucumber soup with fresh dill – our family’s favorite summer soup, just wonderful served with crusty bread, cheese, and a salad
– Cucumbers sliced with fresh dill and yogurt dressing
– Cucumber/radish dip –  shredded cukes and radishes with a little onion, whizzed up with a mixture of cream cheese, sour cream and a little mayo, spices.  creamy and crunchy at the same time
– Bread and Butter Pickles – Gram’s original recipe, easy when you have a mandoline or food processor handy
– Dill Pickles – Great way to use just a few extra cukes, because you can make them up several jars at a time.  Add a little alum to the brine mix to help the cukes stay crisp

TOMATOES:
– Country salad:  tomatoes (cherry/grape are the best) sliced in half with diced red onion, cucumber and green pepper chunks, and a lime/olive oil dressing
– Corn, tomato, red onion salad, jazzed up with some fresh jalapenos and a citrus dressing
– Chili Sauce –  Gram’s recipe, email me for copies:  tomatoes, peppers, onions, vinegar, mustard seed, celery seed, sugar, and a little more – fantastic with pork or chicken or baked beans
– Homemade tomato soup, to which I add some half and half to ‘lighten’ it up
– Shaker chowder, with corn, tomatoes, carrots, celery, onion, and cream
– Tomato Quiche and/or tomato pie – made with ricotta or cheddar or a mix of cheeses, sliced tomatoes on top, fresh herbs, and just delicious.
– Aunt Estelle’s Brisket –  perfect for your Rosh Hashanah dinner, and sooo easy to make.  It’s got essentially five ingredients:  brisket, onions, tomatoes, worcestershire sauce, and oil (plus salt and pepper).  How easy can it get?

EGGPLANT:
– Baba Ganoush, with roasted eggplant mixed with tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and spices – a to-die-for appetizer
– Eggplant Parmesan –  one of Carmela Soprano’s faves, and mine too:  I slice and grill the eggplant, rather than fry it.
– Moussaka –  from a recipe I learned while living in Greece, made with ground lamb, tomatoes, onions, and a bechamel sauce on top (but NO potatoes!!!!)
– Ratatouille –  the classic French vegetable stew which will use up those other things in the garden as well:  tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, onions, zucchini and summer squash, cooked slowly with red wine, spices, bay leaf, and just wonderful with a baguette and butter and a salad.  If you need meat with it, add some grilled chicken sausages and you’re all set!

Many of these things will also use some of the herbs you’ve been growing all summer.  Right now I’ve got African Blue Basil, Italian Basil, Pineapple Sage, Garlic Chives, conventional Chive, Rosemary, Tarragon, Italian Parsley, Dill, Cilantro, Borrage, Lovage, and Shallots in my garden.  Use ’em in these dishes to pump up the flavors!  And if these ideas appeal to you and you just don’t have the wherewithal to make them yourself, let’s talk:  I might be able to make your culinary dreams come true!

That’s my end-of-summer food reverie.  Happy cooking!

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