Peak summer produce, grilled and ready to be frozen or...

Peak summer produce, grilled and ready to be frozen or made into a ragout. Credit: Marge Perry

There is certainly much we could say about this summer and its challenges, but let’s take a minute to appreciate all the produce that grew unbounded, as though to remind us things still thrive. My zucchini decided to take over the (garden) universe, but the basil plants are giving it a run for its money. And I don’t know even know what got into my thyme this year, but it could season an entire small nation.  

Gather all the fresh-picked produce you can, fire up the grill, and freeze it for the colder months ahead.

You don’t have to grill it, of course—but doing so adds a nice hint of smoky flavor and saves on clean up. Besides, I’d rather be outdoors.

You can freeze each item individually after grilling, or make the ragout and freeze that. Use the ragout tossed with pasta, or combine it with beans and serve it spooned over big hunks of garlic toast for a very satisfying meatless dinner. Add some broth and turn it into soup; or eat it as is for a side dish, or a perfectly easy microwavable lunch.

The recipe below includes the basic instructions for grilling tomatoes, corn, zucchini and bell peppers. After grilling, allow them to cool. The tomatoes should be frozen, cut side up, on a sheet pan first, and then may be layered in a container. The kernels should be cut from the corn before freezing, and I generally cut bell peppers into strips to freeze.

Grilled Vegetable Ragout

6 plum tomatoes, 2 pounds, halved

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 tablespoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided

3 assorted color bell peppers, red, yellow and orange

2 corn on the cob, husks removed

2 medium zucchini, about 1 pound, cut across into 1/2-inch thick slices

1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

1. Prepare the grill for medium heat direct and indirect grilling (350-450 degrees) by lighting one side and not the other.

2. Toss the tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of the oil, sugar, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Place them cut side up on the indirect (unlit) side of the grill. Close the lid and grill until the tomatoes have softened but still hold their shape, about 1 hour. Remove from the grill and let stand until slightly cool, about 10 minutes.

3. Brush the bell peppers, corn, and zucchini with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Place the whole bell peppers and corn over the direct heat side of the grill and cook, with the lid closed, turning occasionally, until they are blackened in spots, about 10 minutes; transfer the peppers to a bowl and drape loosely with plastic wrap. Meanwhile, place the zucchini over direct heat and grill with the lid closed, turning once, until well-marked and tender, about 6 minutes total.

4. Coarsely chop the tomatoes and place in a bowl. Rub the blackened char off the bell peppers, remove the seeds and stem and chop into 1-inch pieces; combine with the tomatoes. Cut the corn from the cob and add to the tomato mixture. Cut each zucchini slice into 6 pieces and add to the tomato mixture.

5. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vegetables and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture starts to thickened, about 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the basil and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Makes about 8 servings.