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Farmers Markets, Summer Produce and Joy 

click to enlarge Roasted eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes, fresh from the farmers market.

Simona Carini

Roasted eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes, fresh from the farmers market.

And like that, it's summer: The hallmark vegetables of the season are rolling in and each week brings new delights to this avid consumer. Zucchini have been available for some time, more recently eggplant have appeared and, as I am writing this, I am snacking on the first locally grown cherry tomatoes I purchased at the Saturday farmers market on the Arcata Plaza. While waiting for sweet corn, melons and figs, I keep myself busy with peaches, plums and pluots — and don't complain.

I always hope to encounter new-to-me varieties of produce to try, and such hope gets particularly intense in the summer. Weekday farmers markets are also open (www.northcoastgrowersassociation.org), offering plenty of options for exploring and appreciating the variety of locally grown and produced foods.

Which brings me to the last element of the headline: Each visit to the farmers market brings me joy. It is a gift I have always treasured but one that has become even more important since the pandemic upended our lives more than two years ago.

I like, and am inspired by, pretty much all produce, but summer is the height of inspiration with the arrival to the market of favorites, including the ingredients of the recipe I am sharing today.

The dish is not particularly photogenic, but the raw ingredients are. I often photograph sets of vegetables and fruit fresh from the farmers market and post the images — which I call "edible still lives" — on my Instagram account. I am fascinated by the colors. For example, the eggplant Listada de Gandia (also called Graffiti) is purple and white, the zucchini Costata Romanesco speckled and striped light green, while tomatoes run the gamut from pale yellow to deep red. Using different varieties of the vegetables results in a slightly different-looking dish.

If you would like additional suggestions to make use of zucchini, visit the North Coast Journal's online archive for my recipe for zucchini tart ("Zucchini Days of Summer," July 18, 2019) and another recipe for a zucchini, carrot and tomato side dish ("Summer on a Plate," Aug. 5, 2021).

Roasted Eggplant, Zucchini and Tomatoes

Serves 4

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

12 ounces eggplant

9 ounces zucchini

6 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes

1 small peach (optional)

3-4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh leaves of winter savory or thyme or a mix of the two herbs

1/8 teaspoon paprika

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin,

1/16 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/16 teaspoon chipotle powder

½ teaspoon fine sea salt, or to taste

Heat the oven to 375 F.

Distribute half the olive oil on the bottom of a 3-quart (13" x 9" x 2") glass baking dish.

Trim top and bottom of the eggplant and cut into cubes of no more than ½-inch per side. Trim top and bottom of the zucchini, quarter lengthwise, then slice crosswise, no more than ½-inch thick. Tomatoes: halve the small ones and quarter the larger ones, lengthwise. If using, peel and slice the peach into bite-sized pieces.

Place all the vegetables (and fruit, if using) in the baking dish, sprinkle with the herb(s) and spices and drizzle the remaining olive oil on top, then stir to mix. Place the baking dish in the oven. After 20 minutes, take the baking dish out of the oven and stir its contents. Bake another 5-8 minutes, until eggplant and zucchini are tender.

When the vegetables are ready, take the baking dish out of the oven, sprinkle the sea salt and stir. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve out of the baking dish or transfer onto a serving dish and serve. 

For a richer but still vegan version, as soon as you take the dish out of the oven, top the vegetables with some nutritional yeast before serving.

Simona Carini (she/her) also writes about her adventures in the kitchen on her blog www.pulcetta.com and shares photographs on Instagram @simonacarini. She particularly likes to create still lives with produce from the farmers market.

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Simona Carini

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