Margaret Button | Kitchen Comfort: The many delights that spell summer

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There are many foods and beverages that spell summer for me — iced tea with large wedges of lemon; fresh tomatoes and cucumbers, warm from the garden and sprinkled with a pinch of salt; vanilla soft-serve ice cream dipped in crunch coat, and fresh blueberries sitting on top of yet more vanilla ice cream.

I've had a garden of one kind or another ever since I was 8 years old and planted some carrot seeds. I didn't get many mature carrots though, due to the fact I pulled one up each day to see how big they were. When we first got married, my husband and I had a full-size garden, growing tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, lettuce and for a couple of years, popcorn and pumpkins.

This is the first year I've ever tried growing eggplant and I can't wait for it to get big enough to harvest. Fortunately, a co-worker gave me one she had received as part of her CSA share last week. I was thrilled — one of my favorite dishes is eggplant parmigiana.

Literally decades and decades ago, my fellow co-workers at the North Adams (Mass.) Transcript gave me a surprise bridal shower that included a recipe box filled with their favorite recipes. I have all the cards, typed with a typewriter (remember those?) or hand-written and signed with their names. I can't tell you how many times I've used them — and I can still feel the love and caring that went into the collection.

One of my favorites is for Eggplant Parmigiana a la Amy. All I remember of Amy is that she was a reporter in the newsroom, but her recipe lives on I usually use panko bread crumbs to give it more crunchiness. I also use onion powder and garlic powder to cut down on the sodium content and throw in some fresh basil just because I love it! As Amy wrote on the recipe card, "Guaranteed delicious!"

Eggplant Parmigiana a la Amy

Directions:

Take cross-section slabs of eggplant (sliced to desired thickness) and roll in beaten egg, then coat on both sides with spiced (as desired) bread crumbs. Deep fry. Remove. Place a layer of fried eggplant in greased baking pan, a layer of thick tomato sauce heated with onions, peppers, mushrooms and spices (as desired), then layer of mozzarella cheese slabs to ½-inch thick (chef's choice). Repeat layers. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until hot.

Recommended spices: Garlic salt, onion salt, pepper, oregano and bay leaves.

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Another favorite summer treat is zucchini fresh from the garden — usually a friend's. One of my go-to recipes also comes from the Transcript collection ...

Lorraine's Zucchini Casserole

Ingredients:

4 cups sliced zucchini, boiled for 1 minute and drained

2 eggs

1 cup mayonnaise

1 small onion, chopped

1 small green pepper, chopped

Salt and pepper

Directions:

Beat together eggs, mayonnaise, onion, green pepper, salt and pepper. Fold in zucchini and pour into a greased 1 quart casserole dish lined with bread crumbs. Top with bread crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until tender.


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