- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Every month has its culinary highlights, but September brings the broadest range of garden-fresh ingredients, including lush summer peaches and berries and the first of autumn’s vegetables. With backyard herbs knee-high, this also is the time for a bumper crop of fresh seasonings.

There are so many ways to use this month’s bounty of produce, it makes sense to serve vegetable- and fruit-based meals.

Not only does eating more produce provide health benefits, but it’s also a time saver. In less than 30 minutes, you can make a delicious and satisfying main course using foods from your farmers market or supermarket. Here are some almost-instant ideas:

• Top tomato halves with a combination of bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese, then bake or broil until the tomatoes are tender and the topping browned. Garnish tomato halves with a curl of prosciutto.

• Toss together diced bell peppers, tomatoes, chopped anchovies and a vinaigrette dressing. Add a crusty bread for dipping.

• Tear a semistale French or Italian bread into bite-size pieces. Add chopped fresh tomatoes, a handful of basil, chopped scallions to taste and diced mozzarella cheese. Dress with your favorite vinaigrette dressing.

If you want a flavor sensation beyond fresh vegetables, try roasting. Roasting concentrates the sugars in tomatoes, corn, bell peppers and broccoli so the vegetables taste sweeter.

Grilling achieves the same results. Place vegetables over low to medium heat on the grill.

Roasted vegetables are especially good in a pasta salad. In the following recipe, the cooking juices from the roasted tomatoes and bell pepper become part of the dressing. Add thyme and piquant Gorgonzola cheese for a luscious entree.

Before fresh blueberries vanish for another year, get your fill with a parfait alternating layers of berries and creme fraiche.

Roast-vegetable-and pasta salad

3 plum tomatoes, quartered lengthwise

1 large yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into bite-size chunks

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ teaspoon salt, divided


6 ounces farfalle (bow- or butterfly-shape pasta), cooked

½ cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme

Arrange tomatoes and bell pepper in a shallow roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper to taste.

Roast in preheated 400-degree oven until vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes.

Remove vegetables and cool; reserve any oil and juices from the roasting pan. Cut tomatoes into bite-size pieces.

Combine tomatoes, bell pepper, pasta, Gorgonzola cheese, pan juices and thyme in a large bowl. Toss gently to mix.

Season with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and more pepper to taste. Makes 2 servings.

Blueberry-and-cream parfait

1/4 cup half-and-half

½ cup creme fraiche

½ teaspoon vanilla

4 teaspoons sugar

Grated zest of 1 lemon

2 cups blueberries

1/4 cup coarsely chopped pistachios

Combine half-and-half, creme fraiche, vanilla, sugar and lemon zest in bowl. Spoon ½ cup blueberries into each of 2 tall glasses. Top each serving with 3 tablespoons of the cream mixture. Add ½ cup remaining blueberries to each glass, and finish with the remaining cream mixture. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons pistachios over each serving. Makes 2 servings.


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