Chef's Hat: Ways to spruce up those excess vegetables

Gardeners often need new ways to use summer's bounty.

Contributed / Donna Evans
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Gardens are peculiar things. They may produce 3 beans, 2 beets, 4 dozen tomatoes and 16 squash. While some individuals are ambitious and freeze or can their extras; some of us don’t have the freezer room and/or the time, desire or interest in canning their excess harvest.

Fresh vegetables, of course, have a limited span of time before they have to be thrown into the compost pile. Tomatoes can be sliced or chopped and put into salads, made into salsa, stewed, or incorporated into a soup. Those bright yellow summer squash don’t have quite as much versatility. But yellow squash, just like zucchini, seem to produce bushels. When you have a bushel full of tomatoes or a dozen summer squash, it’s time to look for something a little different to put on the table.

You never know how much of each vegetable your garden is going to produce. What do you do with the overabundance? Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

For those extra tomatoes, you can’t go wrong with a Caprese Salad. A Caprese Salad or an “Insalata Caprese” literally means “the salad of Capri” which is an Italian island. These salads are a simple layering of mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and basil with a drizzle over the top. If you feel like experimenting, add some sliced peaches or avocado slices to your salad. This is a colorful salad and a great side dish for any meat or seafood.


Sources state that yellow summer squash or crooked neck squash should only be kept for a few days or a week, or perhaps two weeks if they are kept in the vegetable compartment of the refrigerator. But it is tricky to determine the actual “spoil” date of squash. If the squash becomes soft or mushy or has an odor, it is past its prime and should not be eaten.

The first time I experimented with baking summer squash I sprinkled on garlic salt, which was recommended by several recipes. Even though it was a small amount of garlic, it was way too much for my taste. I changed the garlic to seasoned salt and ended up with a nice flavorful squash, with a gooey topping. This tasty side dish makes a great accompaniment for chicken or pork.

Don’t feel like freezing or canning those extra vegetables? With a bit of creativity and just a little time there are ample ways to enjoy those excess vegetables. Happy Eating!

Easy Caprese Salad

Delicious caprese salad with ripe tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and fresh basil leaves. Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc.

  • 3 to 4 medium sized tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 (8 ounce) ball of fresh mozzarella, sliced
  • fresh basil or mint leaves
  • Balsamic Vinegar or Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for drizzling)
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Arrange the tomatoes slices and mozzarella slices on a platter.
Sprinkle the basil or mint leaves over the top of the tomato and mozzarella slices. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the top.

Drizzle the olive oil or balsamic vinegar over the top and serve immediately.


Baked Summer Squash with Parmesan Cheese

Baked summer squash is one good way to use a vegetable which can overproduce. Contributed / Donna Evans

  • 2 medium-sized yellow summer squash
  • seasoned salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • ½ cup freshly grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh parsley

Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Wash and pat the squash dry. Cut off the ends and throw away. Cut the remainder into ¼ inch thick slices. Place on to the prepared pan.

Drizzle a bit of olive oil on each slice. Then lightly sprinkle seasoned salt and black pepper across the squash. Place ample amounts of Parmesan cheese on each slice.

Place into the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, just until the cheese melts and turns a light golden brown color. Remove from oven and top with fresh parsley.


Related Topics: FOODRECIPES
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