roasted zucchini and crookneck squash with pumpkin seeds, oregano, and olives

I went out to harvest in the garden this morning and after using up about 20 crookneck squash in the last couple days, I harvested a dozen more. And a dozen cucumbers and three tomatoes. I trimmed the tomato plant back a bit so I can see several others are nearly ready, and William on corn duty tells me there are six or more ears that need to be used now. They’ll be as many or more of everything tomorrow.

I somewhat jokingly wrote in an instagram post several weeks back that I’ve found the best way to eat more vegetables is to grow a lot of vegetables. No jokes anymore since at this point in the season, it’s an incredible fact. For me anyways, this goes particularly because even though the romanticism of growing our own has long since worn off, there’s a huge sense of obligation to not waste what we’ve watched growing all season, to not waste the many hours William has spent watering and sifting compost, pulling weeds, and turning over beds.

Me? I mostly just harvest and cook and then take the glory. As is true for most gardeners and farmers, we tend to plant extra of everything because inevitably one or more crops fail– and people who grow things are slightly addicted to growing more things. (A slight problem when the backyard is producing so much). This year so far, nothing has failed. Literally nothing except a slow start and replanting of beets which thankfully won’t be ready until the summer squash, cucumbers, and corn are about done.

Anyhow, one thing I’ve been thinking about all summer is how very little has been stated publicly, in the mainstream US news anyway, about lifestyle factors that can help us through this pandemic season. Eating more vegetables, filling ourselves up on all the colors, nutrients, phytonutrients, and generally eating more whole, looks-like-it-came-directly-from-the-earth, foods can go a long way. I was asked to write a little more in-depth about this topic recently for Territory Run Co., so if you’d like more details on specific foods, nutrients, or lifestyle factors to help through this season (like mindfulness for stress relief), you can find the article here.

Meanwhile, I’ll be trying to figure out how to gift a few harvest extras this week, and chop, roast, sauté, etc. my way through the others. A little Italian flavor inspired, this combination of roasting zucchini and crookneck squash, and topping it with an herby, olive, garlic, and pumpkin seed topping is just one way to add some pizazz to eating your vegetables. If you have a grill basket and would like to take the cooking outside, grilling the squash instead of roasting will be a nice shift in methods.

Roasted Zucchini + Crookneck Squash with Pumpkin Seeds, Oregano, and Olives, serves 4 as a side
Use any type of summer squash you have available. The smaller, less seedy ones have the best texture.

4-8 small to medium summer squash, chopped (enough to fit a sheet pan or baking tray)
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted
1/4 tsp. salt
20 fresh oregano leaves, finely minced (about two large sprigs)
15 small black olives (about 1/4 cup), rinsed, drained and sliced

  • Preheat your oven to 425 F. Line a baking pan with parchment and then spread the chopped squash evenly, so it’s mostly a single layer. Sprinkle with a little salt and roast until soft and borderline mushy, about 30-40 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, lightly toast the pumpkin seeds in a pan on the stovetop, and then remove them to a cutting board. Chop them until they’re in medium-small pieces, small enough to not be able to tell they’re pumpkin seeds, but not super-fine.
  • Mince the garlic and add it to a small dish, along with the pumpkin seeds, salt, minced oregano and olives.
  • When the squash is done roasting, slide it into a serving bowl, and then stir the herby pumpkin seed mixture throughout and serve.

Eggplant & Olive Caponata Pasta

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I grew up eating a lot of meat and potatoes. Both sides of my family have strong Irish heritage, and spilling over from generations who cooked to feed many on less, those meat and potato dishes didn’t come with much by way of seasoning. My dad refused to eat rice without first spewing a gazillion complaints. Spicy food meant a dab of medium salsa and worldly cuisine meant eating tacos with corn tortillas (instead of flour) from the taco wagon, a feat that did not happen until high school.

During my sophomore year in college, the first year alone and off a meal plan, armed with loads of curiosity and roommates willing to branch out, I learned much of cooking, seasoning, and by trial and error, how to eat healthily. I learned to eat and cherish vegetable meals without meat. I discovered new cuisines.

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It was then that I stumbled on a recipe in the food section of the Oregonian for Sicilian Caponata. My love for eggplants, kalamata olives, and Italian cuisine was firmly cemented.

Over the years, this slightly unusual take on caponata has become my favorite pasta dish. It’s the one I talk about when people ask me what to do with eggplant. It’s the one I think about in February when tomatoes and eggplants are all out of season, but the rich combination of heat-loving vegetables, balsamic vinegar, cinnamon and cocoa, capers and olives all stewed into a lovely sauce make me long for summer again. This is the dish I have made over and over this summer, eating it day after day, skipping a week, and then making it all over again. And it is perfect in this month when the garden (and markets) are teeming with eggplants and tomatoes in their end-of-summer glory.

My parents have come a long way since those adolescent days, and though I haven’t made this dish for them, I know they too, would eat it right up.

Caponata Pasta, adapted from the Oregonian, serves 4
olive oil
1/2 a large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. raisins
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tbs. cocoa powder
1 tsp. fresh minced thyme
3 to 4 very ripe tomatoes
1/4 cup pitted and sliced kalamata olives
2 Tbs. capers, rinsed and drained
2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
8 oz. tubular pasta (I used Ancient Harvest Gluten-Free rotelle)
  • In a large pan, saute onion, garlic, raisins, and pepper flakes for about 10 minutes or until the onions are soft.
  • Stir in eggplant, sugar, cinnamon and cocoa powder and cook 5 to 10 minutes more over medium-high heat.  You may have to add a drizzle of water to soften the mixture up.
  • Add the thyme, olives, capers, tomatoes, and vinegar.  Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes more.
  • While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta, taking off the heat and draining just before it is done.
  • Toss pasta with sauce until thoroughly combined and the pasta is al dente.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve!