First published in July 2006, this updated pantry ingredient post features new photos, links, and tweaks to the recipe. I've been making these veggies for more than twenty years, and I've never tired of the fresh flavor and crunch of lightly-cooked vegetables in a pan vinaigrette. All of the ingredients are available year-round, so you can bring color to the table even in mid-winter.
Kalamata, picholine, frantoio, arbequina, souri ... I've never met an olive I didn't want to take home, but good old black olives in a can are the only ones that merit a permanent place in my pantry.
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When the last of Bob and Charlotte's canoe-size zucchini appeared in my car (how careless of me to leave the car unlocked in their driveway), I planned to turn that zucchini, along with a few trimmings of some very ripe tomatoes, into a curry. Along the way, however, cinnamon and cumin called out to me, and just like that, this mildly spicy vegan zucchini and tomato stew veered off toward the Middle East. A few sprigs of mint from my garden gave the dish just the right amount of brightness, without overwhelming the delicate zucchini flavor, and turmeric turned it a glowing golden color. As with all stews, this was even better on the second day, served over fluffy brown rice.
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The term seasonal gets bandied about a lot these days, and for good reason. Seasonal eating means preparing food at its peak of nutrition, and at its natural harvest time. If you visit the farmstands and farmers' markets in my part of New England this week, you'll find eggplant, tomatoes, green pepper, onions, garlic and zucchini. Put them together in this ratatouille soup, with my secret weapon -- a rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese -- or go vegan and cheese-free. Add mushrooms, or some local corn, if you wish. Eating doesn't get more seasonal than this.
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Yesterday, the farm stand presented me with all of the key ingredients for this soup -- tomatoes, zucchini, onions and garlic -- except the can of beans and hunk of cheese, both of which are staples in my pantry. My own garden basil, abundant and robust, found a happy home with the vegetables in this tomato, zucchini, white bean and basil soup. I added hardy thyme early in the cooking, and tossed the more delicate basil in at the end. Perfect for a summer lunch or supper, with some crusty bread on the side, this "skinny" soup comes together quickly. After all, with very fresh herbs and vegetables, you don't want to fuss over them.
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