Readers are taking advantage of summer's fresh produce. Whether they grow their own or buy vegetables at the farmers' markets or supermarkets, readers are using fresh vegetables in a variety of ways from salsas to salads to desserts.
Summer is a perfect time for meatless meals because the fresh vegetables are so rich in flavor no one misses the meat. I did a fresh tomato sauce that I served over thin spaghetti; the dish contains no meat, just homegrown tomatoes, fresh basil and, of course, onion and garlic. My husband would rather have this sauce than a meat or meatball one any day.
Donna Johnston of Long Beach, Miss., enjoys the abundance of fresh sweet or bell peppers. She shares her favorite stuffed pepper recipe today, but also needs readers' help.
"With green peppers so plentiful now, I need some new bell pepper recipes," she said. "Can anyone help me?"
Readers, send in your favorite recipes that use bell peppers. Johnston, who is a good cook, is open to all ideas. It's fun to add new recipes to the repertoire.
Here's Johnston's stuffed pepper recipe that she has been making for more than 20 years.
6 green peppers
3 tablespoons chopped onion
2 tablespoons butter
1 pound ground chuck
1/2 cup cooked rice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce
1/4 cup sherry
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 pound sharp Cheddar cheese, grated or shredded
Remove stem ends and seeds from peppers. Saute onion in butter, add meat and brown. Mix in rice, salt and pepper and 1 can tomato sauce.
Fill peppers and arrange in a baking dish. Combine sour cream, the remaining can of tomato sauce and the sherry and pour over peppers. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven 45 to 60 minutes. Sprinkle with the cheese and bake another 15 minutes. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
-- Submitted by Donna Johnston
Varieties of eggplant also have done well this season. Farmers markets are great places to find them if having a home garden doesn't suit.
Mary Ann Parker of Woolmarket, Miss., and
her husband, Jack, have a bountiful garden from corn to varieties of tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplants, to name a few, and they like to share with friends, family and Mary Ann's customers and co-workers. Since she and my husband are co-workers, Allen brings home fresh vegetables.
This week, it's been yellow, white and zucchini squash, tomatoes and eggplants. Allen and I love all the vegetables, but my daughter and granddaughter are picky. Tomatoes are always a hit, especially when pasta's involved, but Elyssa likes eggplant when I make a speedy moussaka with ground beef.
Sometimes, I find, home cooks do not know how to cook eggplant unless it is fried. I use eggplant in casseroles, with shrimp, with pasta in an eggplant Parmesan and in a 30-minute moussaka.
I can hear my Greek friends groaning at this easy-does-it moussaka. No, it isn't as rich as the real thing, but it tastes good and makes a quick weeknight meal.
MOUSSAKA IN MINUTES
2 cups (12 ounces) orzo pasta
1-1/4 pounds lean ground beef
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large onion, for 1 cup chopped
1 large eggplant (12 to 16 ounces) for 4 cups peeled and cubed
1 small can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 container (10 ounces) reduced-fat Alfredo sauce
1/4 cup already-grated or already-shredded Parmesan cheese
Turn on the broiler.
Bring 2- 1/2 quarts of unsalted water to a boil in a covered 4- 1/2 quart or larger pot. When the water reaches a rapid boil, add the orzo and cook 7 minutes.
If beef is frozen, run hot water over it so you can remove any packaging. Place the beef on a microwave-safe plate and microwave 3 minutes, uncovered, on high, to begin defrosting.
Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a 12-inch cast-iron or other heat-proof skillet. Peel and coarsely chop the onion, add it to the skillet as you chop. Peel the eggplant and begin cutting it into 1-inch squares. Set aside.
Add the beef (fresh or partially defrosted) to the skillet. Cook, turning and breaking up the meat, until most of the meat is crumbled and browned, about 3 minutes. Finish cutting the eggplant while the meat cooks.
Add the eggplant, tomato sauce and ketchup to the skillet and stir to mix. Cover and boil until all the meat is no longer pink and the eggplant is soft, about 6 to 8 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent sticking, taking care not to make the eggplant mushy.
Meanwhile, add the nutmeg and cinnamon directly to the container of Alfredo sauce. Stir well. Drizzle the sauce evenly over the skillet. Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese evenly over the meat mixture and place under the broiler until the top is bubbly and just begins to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Drain the orzo and serve the meat over a bed of orzo. Serves 6 to 8.
-- From "Desperation Dinners"
James and Terrie Walker asked for salsa recipes to put those fresh tomatoes to good use. Bernice Strickland of Bradenton, sent her favorite salsa recipe for them to try.
"Here is my favorite, and it can top baked potatoes, pizza, pasta, omelets, hamburgers and grilled fish," she said. "A food processor may be used to make this."
"James Walker may want to turn up the heat by adding jalapeno peppers, green onions and fresh garlic," Strickland said.
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/3 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Mix by hand or in food processor. Top with a few drops of lemon juice.
-- Submitted by Bernice Strickland
Need a recipe?
If you have lost a favorite recipe or simply want to find one that perhaps you have eaten in a restaurant, email or mail me your request. Readers and I will do our best to find the answer.
Don't forget to send in bell pepper recipes for Johnston and not just stuffed ones, either.
Andrea Yeager, can be reached at email@example.com and takes requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.