One of the rewards of summer heat is the concentration of flavors present in just about every fruit and vegetable plucked from the sun-baked earth. The intensity of sugars builds into flavors that burst when you bite into them. Think about a ripe summer peach, an ear of Fourth of July fresh corn or a ruby tomato fresh from the vine. There is no better time to enjoy these delights than at the height of the hottest season.
We are blessed to live in an agricultural region that produces a bounty of fruits and vegetables year round. There is a Farmer’s Market held every day of the week somewhere in our locale. The selection is diverse, plentiful and affordable. With all of this at my fingertips, I still choose to try my hand at gardening at home. The challenges of farming on a city lot are many and require ingenuity and creativity beyond my horticultural knowledge. Every year I pour over the seed catalogs and wander through the nurseries choosing the perfect specimens to propagate that year. Each year I learn something new but harvest a meager crop.
My past experiences formed the basis for this season’s selections. Knowing that tomatoes attract mice and rats from the neighboring orchards, I eschew even the tiny grape and cherry variety. Having no luck with peas, beans or corn I forgo anything in this category. In the end I settled on some broccoli, kale and okra for the first planter box with a sampling of squash and eggplant in the other. Then I plant, I water and I wait. Except for the kale I am still waiting. The broccoli took off like a runner in a race and apparently burned out in the final stretch. The plants, although impressively large, produced nary a florette. Even the squash, which any novice can grow, shot out and spread all about without giving us more than a token handful of pattypan.
Imagine my delight the other morning when I peeked under the massive leaf canopy to discover not only a half dozen slender, Japanese eggplant but a handful of the new orb shaped red ones. I squealed in delight like a newbie gardener. Running for the clippers I harvested them and set about to prepare a feast with my abundance. Lucky for me only hubby and I would be eating the meager gathering. Though few in number they were tender and mild flavored. Perfect for a baked Italian delicacy.
Wanting to preserve their fresh flavor and keep the ingredients to a minimum I opted for a style that did not first bread or fry the fruit. I washed the eggplants and slit the long ones down the middle forming little boats. Then I cored out the centers of the round variety and stood them in the baking dish. After about twenty minutes of letting them cure with some salt I filled them with a combination of ricotta, garlic, basil and parmesan and covered the top with homemade marinara. Better than any eggplant parmesan I’d had in an eatery, we savored every bite. There is just nothing like eating something plucked from your own plot of dirt just steps away from the kitchen where it was prepared. Of course that is the real reason I keep trying to cultivate my own green thumb. To me the garden right outside my window truly is my garden of delight.
Recipe for Ricotta Stuffed Eggplant