Making the Best Use of Late-Season Vegetables

We find that there are three stages in the life of a garden. It begins with the first tiny peas and the one bright tomato that are lovingly brought to the kitchen. Like the first fruits of anything, they must be displayed for all to see. Only then are they allowed to reappear in a salad bowl or vegetable dish.

Next comes the outpouring of zucchini, tomatoes and beans that are so abundant that they cry out for freezer bags or canning jars just to keep them from rotting.

Finally, there is the end of the season. A carrot or a handful of snap beans that extend the season by gracing a handcrafted soup. That is where we are now.

When vegetables are cooked in the microwave, they retain a fresher-picked texture and color than when cooked any other way.

MINESTRONE ALLA GENOVESE

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

1 cup peeled and diced potato

1/2 cup thinly sliced celery

1/2 cup thinly sliced peeled carrot

1/2 cup sliced zucchini

1/4 pound green snap beans, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 1/2 cups shredded cabbage

3 cups beef or chicken broth

1 cup peeled and seeded ripe tomatoes, preferably plum, or undrained canned, chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh basil or 1/4 teaspoon crushed dried

Freshly ground pepper

1 cup cooked Great Northern beans or canned cannellini beans

1/4 cup small dry pasta

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Pesto

Combine olive oil, garlic and onion in 4-quart microwave-proof casserole. Cover with lid or plastic wrap, turned back. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once until onion is slightly tender. Stir in potato, celery and carrot. Cover and microwave on HIGH 2 to 4 minutes more, stirring once.

Stir in zucchini, green beans and cabbage. Cover and microwave on HIGH 2 to 3 minutes, stirring once. Stir in broth, tomatoes, parsley and basil. Cover and microwave on HIGH 10 to 12 minutes or until soup boils, stirring once.

Reduce power to MEDIUM (50% power) and microwave 15 to 20 minutes or until potato is almost tender, stirring occasionally. Season to taste with pepper. Stir in beans and pasta. Cover and microwave on MEDIUM 8 to 12 minutes until pasta is almost tender. Let stand, covered, 5 minutes before serving.

Ladle soup into bowls and sprinkle with cheese and spoonful Pesto. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Pesto

2 cups firmly packed fresh basil leaves with stems removed

1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons grated Pecorino, Romano or Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup olive oil

Process basil, pine nuts and garlic in food processor or blender until finely chopped. Blend in Parmesan and Pecorino cheeses. Slowly pour in oil while blending if using processor and continue to blend until fine paste forms. (Pesto will keep refrigerated 3 days or may be frozen in individual heavy-duty plastic bags or jars.) Makes 2 cups.

ZUCCHINI BORSCHT

1 teaspoon olive oil, butter or margarine

1/2 cup chopped onion

1 pound beets, peeled and grated or cut into 1/4-inch cubes

1 cup grated zucchini

1/4 cup orange juice

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Dash salt

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup plain yogurt or sour cream

2 tablespoons finely snipped fresh chives or green onion tops

Combine olive oil and onion in 3-quart microwave-proof casserole. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) 2 to 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Add beets. Cover with lid or plastic wrap and microwave on HIGH 12 to 16 minutes or until beets are tender, stirring twice.

Add zucchini, orange and lemon juices, pepper and salt. Stir in chicken broth. Cover and microwave on HIGH 12 to 15 minutes or until boiling, stirring once.

Let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Serve hot or cold, ladled into bowls or cups. Top with dollop of yogurt and chives. Makes 4 servings.

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