OVER EASY: Use fresh vegetables in array of recipes

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By Julianne Munn

It was such a pleasure to tour the farm in Hernando last week operated to benefit The Path of Citrus County (see featured story this page). The array of fresh produce begged for a recipe using a variety of Florida’s best veggies. 

* 1 large eggplant, large diced (remove skin if desired)
* 2 zucchini, large diced
* 2 large squash, large diced
* 2 bell peppers, seeded and diced large
* 6 cloves fresh garlic, minced
* 12 mushrooms, rinsed and quartered
* 1 large yellow onion, diced
* 1/4 cup fresh parsley, hand torn
* 2 teaspoons fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
* Canola or olive oil for cooking
* Sea salt to taste
* Fresh ground pepper to taste

Preheat a large-sized sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the hot pan. Add half of the onion to the pan and cook for 2 minutes. Add half of the garlic and all the bell peppers to the onion mixture in the pan. Continue to cook the vegetables in the pan and add all of the yellow squash and zucchini to the pan. Lightly season the cooking vegetables with salt and pepper. Let the vegetables cook until the squash is crisp-tender (about 2 minutes).

Remove the vegetables from the pan into a large serving bowl. Place the sauté pan back over the heat and use a spatula to remove any debris. Once the pan is hot again, add 1 tablespoon oil and the other half of the diced onion. Let the onions cook for 2 minutes and then add the garlic, mushrooms and eggplant. Lightly season the cooking vegetables with salt and pepper. Let the vegetables cook until the eggplant is tender (about 2 minutes).

Remove the vegetables from the pan and place them into the bowl with the other vegetables. Add fresh herbs to the bowl of vegetables and stir to combine. Serve warm. 

It makes 6 to 8 servings. 

— Recipe and photo courtesy of Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

* * * 

I imagine most everyone has pet peeves when dining out, whether it’s fast food or haute cuisine. Personal favorite gripes include:

* Thin and watery soup — think of a bowl of bland broth with miniscule cubes of canned carrots and potatoes and a few peas passed off as vegetable soup.

* So-called homemade potato salad with potato chunks way too al dente.

* Bisque or chowder that tastes of an abundant flour filler for thickening the broth.

* Barely fried bacon.

* Meat and poultry gravy with that telltale mass-produced artificial taste.

* Thin, watery spaghetti sauce.

* Scrambled eggs and omelets with crusty, brown edges.

* Servers who know nothing about menu items, including their origin, ingredients and preparation.

* Glass in windows and doors long overdue for a good cleaning.

* House salads with wilted, brown-tinged lettuce and anemic slices of tomato.

* Salads served in miniscule bowls that result in spilled and flying greens.

That’s just for starters. Share your dining annoyances if you wish.

* * 8 

A big plate of delicious homemade cookies is a must for holiday entertaining. Here is an easy recipe to make with no stress at all.

* 1 cup Bisquick
* 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
* 1/4 cup chopped pecans
* 1 tablespoon sugar
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
* 3 tablespoons boiling water

Heat oven to 375 degrees. In mixing bowl, blend Bisquick, butter, nuts, sugar and flavoring. Add boiling water; stir vigorously with fork until dough forms a ball and cleans the bowl. Shape dough in 24 fingers, 2 1/2 inches long. Place on ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes.

While warm, roll each finger in granulated or powered sugar.

Julianne Munn is the food writer for the Citrus County Chronicle. Email her at jmunn2@tampabay.rr.com.