For those who like to cook and those who like to eat, this is the best time of year to be in Ohio.
There's a bounty of fresh produce available, fruits and vegetables that never crossed a border, never went through customs, never spent time marinating in the exhaust of a tractor-trailer rig.
This time of year, I try to avoid the produce section of the supermarket and make the trip most Saturday mornings to Richard E. Orwig Park for the Howland farmers market. Local farmers sell their meats and produce from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and folks who don't want to cook can find plenty of prepared foods and tempting desserts.
Tribune Chronicle photos /Andy Gray
Eggs with tomato makes a great brunch dish, or it can be served as a vegetarian dinner entree.
It's also the perfect place to inspire an August food page.
One of the recipes here is a long-time favorite and the other I improvised.
Eggs with tomato is adapted from a recipe in the cookbook ''Cucina & Famiglia'' by Joan Tropiano Tucci and Gianni Scappin with Mimi Stanley Taft. The cookbook includes some of the recipes featured in Stanley Tucci's film ''Big Night,'' perhaps the greatest foodie movie ever made. We've never attempted the movie's centerpiece entree - the timpano - but this simple dish has been a favorite since the first time we made it.
Eggs with Tomato
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
1 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes
4 large eggs
Salt and pepper to taste
chopped or torn basil
Heat olive oil in pan over medium heat. Add the sliced onion and cook until it gets soft, about three minutes. Add tomatoes and liquid from can and break up the tomatoes with hands or a wooden spoon. Cook until the flavors of the tomatoes and onions sweeten and meld, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Crack eggs into the tomato mixture (don't break the yolks) and cover the pan. Cook about five minutes until the whites are cooked but the yolks still are runny. Gently spoon out two eggs in each bowl and surround with the tomato mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste, top with chopped or torn basil and serve with a crusty bread.
4 medium zucchini
3 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
4 shallots, finely chopped
1 lb. mild or hot Italian sausage
1 cup cooked rice
1 large tomato, chopped
1/3 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice each zucchini lengthwise and then use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and some of the flesh for each zucchini half until they are about a quarter-inch thick. Brush about 2 tablespoons of olive oil total on the cut sides of the eight zucchini halves, add salt and pepper and place on a hot baking sheet, cut side down. Cook for about 10 to 12 minutes until tender and lightly browned. Remove baking sheet from the oven and turn the zucchini so the cut side is up.
While the zucchini are baking, heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan and add the chopped shallots. Cook for a minute or two until they start to soften, then add the Italian sausage (casing removed) and break up the meat with a wooden spoon. Cook until the sausage is just cooked through (it will cook more in the oven so it's OK if there's still a hint of pink in spots).
Turn off the heat and drain any excess fat. Add the cup of cooked rice and the chopped tomato to the sausage and mix thoroughly. Spoon the filling evenly into the eight zucchini halves. Top with the parmesan cheese and the mozzarella cheese and return to the 400-degree oven for about 6 minutes until the cheese melts and starts to brown in places.
Makes four main-dish servings or eight appetizer servings.
It's a perfect Sunday brunch option, and it also works as a vegetarian dinner.
Now, I confess, I use canned tomatoes when I make this and occasionally will splurge for San Marzano tomatoes. But for gardeners who do their own canning, this would be a good use for those home-canned Roma tomatoes. And every other ingredient is available at the Howland farmers market and / or my own paltry garden.
Eggs are an inexpensive protein. Local brown eggs may seem pricy by comparison, but only to those who haven't tasted the difference. Crack one open and see how vibrant the color of the yolk is compared to a store-bought, factory-farmed egg. The flavor difference is just as pronounced.
But I learned the hard way that it's the early bird that gets the egg. I was chatting with a friend in front of Miller Livestock Co.'s stand at about 10:30 a.m. when I saw Melissa Miller scratch eggs off their dry erase board.
So the dish in the picture was prepared with store-bought, organic brown eggs. I won't make the same mistake this weekend.
The onion came from Shipula Farms' stand, and the 20 minutes the thinly sliced onion and the tomatoes simmer together sweetens both ingredients. The original recipe calls for a small onion and a cup of canned tomatoes. I triple those components, and my wife and I have no trouble devouring every last bite (you can add two more eggs and have enough of the mixture to serve three people if needed). I also leave the yolk runnier than the original recipe calls for, because just about everything is better with a runny yolk (and we sopped up the yolk and the tomato / onion mixture with a baguette from Colonial Bake Shop's farmers market stand). I also topped it with some chopped basil from our garden after plating.
Zucchini seems to be the most ubiquitous summer vegetable, and one of the most common ways to prepare it is to stuff it. We have a lot of zucchini recipes, but I'd never made stuffed zucchini before and was in the mood to experiment.
A recent issue of Cook's Illustrated had a recipe with suggestions to keep the filling from drying out or the zucchini shell from becoming mushy. I borrowed the technique for the zucchini, but they used a vegetarian filling and I wanted to incorporate some of the Italian sausage that came with the half of a Berkshire pig we bought in May from Miller Livestock.
I got mild sausage because my wife isn't as big of a fan of heat as I am, and I cooked it with finely chopped shallots I bought a couple weeks ago from Shipula's stand. Shipula also had zucchini that were just the right size - not monstrously big, but large enough to handle a decent amount of filling.
I mixed rice and chopped tomato (try to get as much liquid out of the tomato chunks as possible) with the sausage before stuffing the zucchini.
I was happy with the texture of the zucchini shell; it still had a bit of firmness. And the filling had a subtle flavor, so each of the ingredients was distinctive on its own. And the salty bite of the parmesan cheese gave it a nice finish
But it may be too subtle. Next time I would add some garlic, maybe substitute panko crumbs for the rice and / or add a little heat, either some spices or maybe mixing in some of Abruzzi's hot peppers in oil (also available at the Howland farmers market) just before that return to the oven to melt the cheese.