Cooking | Cooking

Summer’s bounty

Double-portion recipes (with freezing instructions) take advantage of all those beautiful vegetables.

By Denise Drower Swidey
August 9, 2009

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If only the New England climate allowed a sprinkling of fresh, local produce all year long. Instead, it arrives in a downpour every August, when neighbors leave bags of sweet plump tomatoes and oversize zucchini on your doorstep, or your delivery box from the local community farm explodes with unfamiliar leafy greens. What to do with this brief bounty? Here are a main course and a soup that will put all that produce to good use. Make one of each for dinner and freeze a second for those lean months during the long New England winter. (The recipes are written for making double batches, so halve them if you are skipping the freezer.) Or consider giving the second batch to your neighbor, ensuring that more bountiful bags will appear on your doorstep next August.

Vegetable Calzone

8 large calzones

Freshly picked vegetables are the focus of this outside-in pizza, so give yourself a break and buy pre-made pizza dough.

2 pounds pizza dough

3 cups grated provolone cheese (about 8 ounces)

3 cups grated mozzarella cheese (about 8 ounces)

¼ cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 red bell peppers, chopped

2 medium onions, chopped

Salt and black pepper

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 medium zucchini, chopped

3 cups cauliflower florets, chopped roughly

4 ears of corn, cooked

½ cup basil leaves, sliced in thin ribbons

1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Cornmeal, for dusting

Have dough at room temperature. Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place oven rack in lowest position (position a pizza stone, if using, on rack). In a large bowl, combine the cheeses and toss with the flour. Set aside. In a large saute pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat and add the bell peppers and onions. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Turn up heat to medium-high and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then add zucchini and cauliflower. (Cook in batches if your pan isn’t big enough to fit vegetables in a shallow layer.) Cook, stirring occasionally, for 4 or 5 minutes or until vegetables are just cooked through. Meanwhile, cut corn kernels from the cob. Cool vegetables for 10 minutes. Stir in corn and basil. Add to the grated-cheese mixture and season with salt and black pepper to taste.

Punch down the dough and divide into 8 balls. Lightly flour a work surface. Roll each dough ball into a round, ¼ inch thick and 8 inches in diameter. Place a heaping cup of filling on half of each round, leaving a ½-inch border of dough. Fold dough over the filling, making a half-moon shape. Pinch around edge to seal. With a sharp paring knife, cut 3 small parallel slashes on top for steam to vent. Using a pastry brush, coat the top lightly with egg wash.

Dust a sheet tray with cornmeal and transfer the calzones to the tray. (Or dust pizza stone with cornmeal and place calzones directly on top of the stone.) Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until calzones are deep golden brown and crisp. Serve hot.

To store unused servings, cool completely at room temperature, then wrap calzones individually in aluminum foil and place in a freezer bag and freeze. To reheat, place unwrapped frozen calzones in a 350-degree oven and bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until hot throughout.

Swiss Chard and Bacon Soup

Serves 8

To offset their sometimes bitter notes, leafy greens are often paired with salty smoked-pork products: Portuguese kale soup with linguica and Southern hambone and collard greens are two examples. Here, bacon is a great complement to Swiss chard -- and the soup’s so hearty it can be a meal unto itself.

½ pound thick-cut bacon, cut into small dice

1 bunch Swiss chard, leaves separated from stems

1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup dry white wine

2 quarts low-sodium chicken broth

Salt and pepper

1½ pounds unpeeled red potatoes (about 4 medium), in large cubes

¾ pound Roma tomatoes (about 5), chopped roughly

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a large stockpot over medium heat, add the bacon and cook until golden brown and crisp, stirring occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the Swiss chard: Roll the leaves into a cylinder and slice into ribbons. Cut stems into ¼-inch dice. Keep leaves and stems separate.

Remove the bacon to drain. Discard all but 1 tablespoon of bacon fat from the pan. Add the onion and diced Swiss chard stems to the pan and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the white wine, increase the heat to medium-high, and reduce the wine until almost dry. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the potatoes, return to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes or until the potatoes are just cooked through. Crush them slightly with a potato masher or a wooden spoon.

Add the Swiss chard leaves, return to a simmer, and cook until the leaves are tender and bright green, 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the tomatoes and lemon juice and check seasoning. Ladle soup into serving bowls, top with bacon, and serve immediately.

To store unused portion, cool soup completely in the refrigerator and freeze; freeze bacon in a separate container. To reheat, defrost soup overnight in the refrigerator, then bring to a gentle simmer to serve. Alternately, warm frozen soup over low heat until melted, then bring to a gentle simmer. Re-crisp the bacon in a medium oven for a few minutes, if desired.

One-Dish Vegetable Tian

Serves 8 as a side dish

A tian is a shallow earthenware pan from Provence. Since I don’t own one and to make cleanup easier, I use a cast-iron skillet that can go from stove top to oven to table. To avoid having to put a skillet in your freezer, build the second tian in a 10-inch cake pan. While fresh is best with this dish, it holds up surprisingly well in the deep freezer.

6 tablespoons olive oil

6 medium onions, thinly sliced

Salt and black pepper

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 serrano peppers, minced

2 summer squash, sliced into 1/4-inch disks

2 zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch disks

6 Roma tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick

2 medium Japanese eggplants, sliced 1/4 inch thick

6 medium red potatoes, sliced into 1/4-inch disks

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and set a rack in the middle position. In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet or tian pan (or other stove top-to-oven skillet) set over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onions, season with salt and pepper to taste, and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and serrano peppers and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat. Transfer half of the onion mixture to a 10-inch round cake pan. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil onto each of 2 sheet trays and lay out the summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplants, and potatoes on the trays. Drizzle the sliced vegetables with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper. Shingle the vegetables in overlapping layers on top of the onion mixture, half the vegetables in the skillet or tian pan and half in the cake pan. Sprinkle with thyme. Season with salt and pepper again, if desired. Cover both pans with aluminum foil or a tight lid. Bake 40 to 55 minutes or until potatoes are just cooked through (cast iron will cook faster, a cake pan slower). Meanwhile, combine the cheese and bread crumbs. Remove both tians from the oven and sprinkle half the cheese mixture over each pan. Return the skillet tian to the oven and bake an additional 20 minutes or until crumbs are golden brown. Serve warm.

To store unused tian,cool, cover with aluminum foil, and wrap in plastic wrap before freezing. To reheat, remove the plastic wrap but leave the foil. Place frozen dish in a 350-degree oven and bake for 30 minutes. Then increase heat to 400 degrees, remove the foil, and bake another 30 minutes until golden brown.

Denise Drower Swidey, a regular contributor to the Cooking column, is an Emmy-nominated culinary producer of Simply Ming on PBS. Send comments to

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