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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Summertime vegetarian locavore dinner

Insalata verde. Mixed greens from our garden plus
tomatoes from the farmers market.

By Linda Felaco

To me, one of the best things about summer (other than the beach, of course) is being able to visit one of our many local farm stands or farmers markets and bring home fresh-picked produce, or, better yet, just stepping outside and picking food I've grown myself. Tonight, my husband and I made a vegetarian locavore dinner entirely with items grown here in Charlestown.

We started off with an insalata verde (shown at right) made with mixed greens we grew ourselves plus a couple of tomatoes we picked up at the farmers market this morning, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette. (Other than a handful of cherry tomatoes that I've eaten straight off the vine, none of our tomatoes have ripened yet.)

Fried squash blossoms
The first course was fried squash blossoms (shown at left). When picking squash blossoms, you want to make sure to select only male flowers so as not to reduce your harvest of squash. The male blossoms grow on long stems and do not have the bulbous base of the female blossoms, which grow closer to the roots of the plant. See here for an illustrated tutorial on how to tell them apart.

Squash blossoms are delicate, so you don't want to overpower them with a heavy batter. The trick to making a nice, light batter is to use sparkling water or seltzer. You can also put a chunk of mozzarella cheese inside the flowers before dipping and frying. They only need to fry for a couple of minutes at most.

White eggplant ratatouille
The main course was white eggplant ratatouille (shown at right). We got the white eggplant from Briarfield Farm on Shannock Road and used our own zucchini.

To make the ratatouille, dice a medium white eggplant and halve two medium zucchini and then slice them. Coat the bottom of a sauté pan with extra-virgin olive oil and heat. When the oil is hot, add sliced onion and chopped garlic. Heat until the onions are translucent, then add the eggplant and zucchini. Cook uncovered over medium heat until the vegetables are soft, stirring periodically to prevent sticking. Buon appetito!