The days now start with a foggy chill but by afternoon they eventually acquiesce to the sun’s heat. We straddle two seasons in September but in October the brisk air is like a slap in the face. It’s clearly fall. The chill is enough to start the coloration of leaves outside our window.
Even after this spectacular summer, I still welcome the arrival of a new season. I like the color in the farmers markets, too. Rich shades of deep purple, red and orange vegetables inspire a desire to show some color on the plate.
I still see overflowing baskets of peppers in every shade of fall. They are a summer vegetable that proves its mettle surviving the new chill in the air. Tomatoes are surprisingly hardy, too, and I still find them in baskets at the market.
I also find plenty of garlic. Its jackets are now dry and almost crumbly, unlike fresh spring garlic with its bright curly green scapes. Fall garlic shows its age, just like the rest of us, looking a bit more wrinkly and weathered. Its taste is now concentrated and bold and best tempered by heat and oil.
Together, garlic and peppers are a lovely combination and I find myself quickly sauteeing the two in a pan with a generous amount of olive oil and sometimes dried herbs. Once softened, I pour it all into a jar and top with additional olive oil to keep in the fridge.
I roast my tomatoes before jarring. If you still have leftover tomatoes from Pan Con Tomate, slice them in half, add some garlic cloves still in their sleeves and roast in a hot oven until the tomatoes are deflated and slightly burnished. Once cool enough to handle, the girls and I pluck off and discard the tomato skins and squeeze out the softened roasted garlic. Again, we scrape into a jar, top with additional olive oil and keep for the week.
I pull out the jars of peppers and tomatoes to use for a variety of dishes. A jar poured over cooked pasta makes dinner almost instant. They are also a great topping for pizza, in a salad with goat cheese, or on bread as a sandwich with fresh mozzarella. You get the idea.
Even better, I pull frozen puff pastry from the depths of my freezer (puff pastry is a great freezer staple to use for last minute meals and desserts) and pop into a hot oven to swell and start to brown. I pull out to add cheese and then my jarred tomatoes and/or peppers, and pop back into the oven to bubble and brown. In a few minutes I have a vegetable tart, or a pizza. My kids devour as a snack or even for dinner. I’ve also cut into smaller pieces to serve as an appetizer.
I like looking at my jars in the fridge as if I accomplished something homespun, knowing it actually involves little effort. Best of all, it captures the last remnants of summer in a jar and makes dinner this week a little easier.
- An assortment of peppers (there is so much variety in size and shape of peppers it is impossible to narrow further but I used about 8 small colorful sweet peppers per baking sheet), remove ribs and seeds, slice about ½-inch thick
- 2-3 medium garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 2-3 Tablespoons Olive Oil (preferably not extra virgin)
- Salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper, or less)
- Dried herbs, if desired (thyme and basil are my favorites but oregano would be great, too, especially for pizza)
- An assortment of small to medium tomatoes (such as Campari in the grocery stores and Costco), cut in half and placed on baking sheet.
- 4-5 garlic cloves, unpeeled, per baking sheet
- 2-3 Tablespoons canola oil for drizzling
- Salt and pepper, to taste (about 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper, or less)
- Dried herbs, if desired (basil, thyme or oregano always work well)
- 1 sheet frozen Puff Pastry (available in frozen section next to pie crusts. I use Pepperidge Farm.)
- 1-2 handfuls shredded cheese (I usually use shredded parmesan or "pizza blend" with asiago and mozzarella cheese)
- 4-5 spoonfuls of jarred peppers and/or tomatoes
- olive oil to drizzle
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil or parchment paper (for easy clean up)
- Place sliced tomatoes on baking sheet, scatter garlic around tomatoes
- Drizzle oil on all, making sure everything has a light coating of oil
- Sprinkle over salt, pepper and dried herb(s), if using
- Bake in oven until tomatoes deflate and begin to brown, about 12-15 minutes, depending on your oven.
- When cool enough to handle, gently pull away skins from tomatoes (they will fall away), discard skins.
- Press gently on garlic cloves to remove soft garlic and mash cloves slightly with fork (discard outer shells).
- Scrape into a jar (an 8-oz Mason jar would work well), top with olive oil to cover and keep refrigerated for about a week (or more).
- Cover a large sauté pan with a layer of olive oil to cover entire surface and heat over medium heat until hot. Add peppers, stir until softened. (Depending on the peppers, this usually takes about 8-10 minutes.)
- Add garlic, lower heat to medium low and stir to combine. Cook until peppers are completely wilted. Do not let garlic brown.
- Remove from heat, cool slightly and scrape into a Mason jar. Add additional olive oil to cover, if needed. Keeps in refrigerator about a week (or more).
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove puff pastry from the freezer.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
- Once pastry is pliable (usually ready by the time the oven is ready), unfold pastry onto baking sheet and press together at seams.
- Using a fork, lightly press prick pastry all over.
- Place in the hot oven for about 10 minutes until very lightly browned.
- Remove, deflate by pricking with a fork or small knife (it will puff again!), add a layer of cheese and desired topping of tomatoes or peppers (just vegetables, not juice or it gets a little soggy).
- Place back into oven for about 5 minutes or under a broiler for about 1-2 minutes until bubbly and browned.
- Serve immediately.