Preparing Vegetables Ahead of Time
Eggplant/Zucchini/Squash/Cauliflower – Anyone ???
I occasionally fix an Italian style dish with pasta and veggies. To make life easier I prepare some things ahead of time. I use a lot of onions in recipes and I like them caramelized. So, when I buy onions I cook as many as 6 to 10 pounds at a time and freeze them in appropriate sizes for recipes. I use coconut oil. I put them in small freezer bags, squeeze out the air and roll them up into a tube shape. I do this by putting the cooled onions into the bag, about 1/3 full. Push them down to the bottom of the bag, roll toward the top and then close up the zip lock. Label them and freeze. This takes a while but in the end, it shortens the cooking time for all other recipes. I also make my own pesto and freeze it in small freezer bags (also rolled up). I will post a pesto recipe later.
I buy zucchini, yellow squash, Brussel Sprouts, and cauliflower, prepare them by slicing or cutting into bite-sized pieces, and steaming them in a small amount of water in the microwave. I drain them and put them in the appropriate sized freezer bag and lay them flat in the freezer. This way you can stack them up and take up much less room in the freezer than traditional containers. When I want to fix a dish and don’t have a lot of time, I just take out whatever I want and decide on what recipe I want to make. By having the onions, pesto, and veggie cooked part way, you cut the cooking time by more than half.
Most of the time I prepare the veggies, onions and pesto while cooking other recipes. I make good use of my time by starting the meal I am cooking and while it is cooking, I slice onions or whatever and get them ready for the freezer. I find that caramelizing the onions is easily done in a wok. Use a medium-high heat being careful to not burn the onions. You need to stir often.
Quick Home-Style Italian Dishes
These recipes are quick because you have already prepared some of your ingredients ahead of time and they are in your freezer. One of the only veggies that I do not freeze is eggplant. It cooks quickly and you can add it to the recipe last.
To make pesto you need only 5 ingredients. Basil, Olive Oil, Garlic, Parmesan Cheese, and Walnuts (or Pecans) Pecans are sweeter. Your proportions will depend on your tastes. I try to buy basil on sale. At a specialty market you might find basil in larger bunches. Wash and take the leaves off the stems. In a blender or food processor, add your basil and a little olive oil. Process on high for a few seconds. Add garlic, and cheese. Pulsate on high quickly. Add nuts and stream in a little olive oil at a time to get desired consistency. I use a lot of garlic. Some recipes call for pine nuts. They are more expensive than other nuts and I find that the others work just as well. All the recipes I create are subject to changes. I might try something else just to see how it works. You should do the same.
Italian Veggies and Pasta
1 – Eggplant (peeled and cubed)
2 – Small – Zucchinis (sliced)
6 – Mushrooms (cleaned and sliced)
2 – Cans – Fire-Roasted Tomatoes (diced)
½ - cup – Chicken Broth
Parmesan Cheese (to taste)
Pasta of your choice (I like whole grain)
Addition spices: Oregano, dried basil, Italian spices, sea salt and pepper. (to taste)
Optional: Italian Sausage (I use chicken sausage) (sliced)
1) In a large skillet, thaw your onions and pesto on a medium heat.
2) Add sausage at this time if you choose to use it.
3) Add tomatoes and broth; simmer.
4) Add cubed eggplant and sliced zucchini. Stir and simmer.
5) Add mushrooms.
6) Add any additional spices you may choose to add.
8) Cook your pasta according to package directions.
9) Add cheese; stir.
10) Pile pasta in a plate or bowl and top with veggies.
11) You can add more cheese at this point, too.
As with any recipe, you can add more veggies, more or less cheese or whatever you choose to do. The only rule is that there are no rules. ENJOY !!!