How to Save Your Golden Summer Vegetables and Herbs for Your Cold Days

Around this time of year the question I am usually asked by people I meet in the stores or from people who send me e mails is:  What do I do with the vegetables and herbs that are coming out of my garden so profusely?  It appears that eggplant is the vegetable of choice for a lot of people, but many of these same people end up with an great abundance of the vegetable.  Although most have one recipe for preparing eggplant, they seem to grow much of it that they are looking for additional recipes.While with tomatoes we all know how to make salsa, salads with tomatoes in them, etc., I will leave them alone in this column and concentrate on the other vegetables that present problems of abundance.An easy way to retain fresh herbs, such as sweet basil, peppermint, and oregano, is to wash and thoroughly air-dry each separate batch of herbs, then mix one cup of the herb you are preserving with one cup of olive oil, and puree with one quarter teaspoon of salt.  Put them in a sterilized jar and refrigerate overnight, or for about six hours.  This allows the herbs to settle to the bottom with the olive oil rising to the top.  Stirring the next day homogenizes the mixture and it will not separate again.  Leave the jar in the refrigerator to use during the winter when there are no longer any fresh herbs.  For example, if you are making tomato sauce for pasta, use one tablespoon of the preserved basil and oil mixture and add it to the sauce.  You will find that the flavor is extremely intense, as though you have added fresh basil.  The same is true for all of the herbs you preserve this way.Another way is to wash and air-dry a mixture of basil, sage, oregano and thyme, then mixing the herbs together and wrapping about a quarter cup of this mixture in a five inch square of cheesecloth.  It should be tied tightly, placed in a plastic freezer bag and frozen for use in soup during the winter months.  Dropping the cheesecloth into the soup gives it all the flavor you want, and before serving, you simply throw away the cheesecloth and the herbs, which have provided all the flavor they intend to by the time you discard the mixture.For zucchini and eggplant, cut the vegetable into one inch cubes, spray them with olive oil spray, and then broil in the oven until they are golden brown.  When they’ve cooled, put enough for your family’s meal into a freezer bag and freeze them.  In the winter, when you’re making a soup, stew, or pasta, simply open the freezer bag and dump the mixture into your soup pot.Another method is to slice lengthwise the zucchini or eggplant and spray them with olive oil spray, broil them on each side until they’re golden brown, allow them to cool then freeze each kind of vegetable separately.  This method allows you to use them in vegetarian lasagna, vegetarian pizza, or marinate them as a side dish. As well, pierce an eggplant a couple of times with a fork, then either grill it or broil it for about fifteen minutes on each side.  Allow it to cool, then peel the skin, and mash the pulp inside into a paste, which will have a smoked flavor.  Put the result in a freezer bag and freeze.  I will give you a recipe below for what is called, “vegetarian caviar” made from the eggplant preserved this way.Another way to preserve zucchini is to cut a zucchini in half lengthwise, drop it into salted boiling water, and allow it to boil for five minutes.  Remove it from the water and with a teaspoon, remove the pulp and freeze enough for a family meal in separate freezer bags.  In the winter, put the contents of a bag on a baking tray, cut side up, stuff them with meat, or your choice of stuffing, and cover with a tomato sauce or a white cheese sauce.  Once baked—for about five minutes—you have a gourmet dish ready for your family.Here are the recipes that will help you use the food you’ve prepared:Eggplant Caviar:Makes about 2 cups2               large eggplants2              cloves garlic, mashed1               tablespoons lemon juice1/2 cup  finely chopped parsley-Pierce each eggplants several places and then grill or broil about 10 minutes on each side.-Remove from the grill, allow to cool, and then mash with a fork into smooth paste.-Mix in the rest of the ingredients, cover and refrigerate for couple hours before serving. Up-side Down Eggplant MoldServes 6-83          large eggplants1         pound frozen soy protein2        cups medium grain Chinese rice6        tablespoons olive oil1/4      cup slivered almonds or pine nuts, toastedsalt and pepper to taste-Peel two eggplants, and then cut lengthwise into half-inch thick slices.-Place the eggplants on a cookie sheet, spray with olive oil spray and broil until golden brown.  Turn to other side, spray and broil until golden brown.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool. -Peel and cut the third eggplant into half-inch cubes, place in a colander, and sprinkle with salt.  Allow the cubes to rest for 30 minutes.  Squeeze the cubes gently to remove excess water, and place on a cookie sheet.  Spray with olive oil spray and broil until brown.  Remove from the oven and set aside.-In a heavy medium pot, heat the olive oil, and then sauté the soy protein  for 3 minutes. Remove half of the soy protein and set on the side.  Add the eggplant cubes to the rest of the soy protein along with four and half cups of water.  Bring water to a boil.  Add salt and pepper to taste.-Add the rice to the boiling water, cover and continue to cook over low heat for 20 minutes.-Place the saved cooked soy protein on the bottom of a bundt cake pan.  Line the cake pan with the broiled eggplant slices.  Make sure they overlap to cover the soy protein and form kind of lining for the cake pan. -Scoop the cooked rice mixture inside the eggplant mold and press gently.-Place a flat serving dish, which is at least 2-inches wider than the cake pan, over the cake pan, and then, holding the serving plate with one hand, and with the other hand under the cake pan, turn the pan upside down as fast as you can manage it.-Leave the pan on top of the plate for couple minutes; then after it’s removed, you will have a nice eggplant mold.-Sprinkle the toasted almond over and around the mold.