Cookbook celebrates the Niagara region seasons

Lynn Ogryzlo’s heart and soul are in the region of Niagara, particularly in its bountiful harvest.

The cover of the cookbook "Niagara Cooks" is shown in a handout photo. Author Lynn Ogryzlo's heart and soul is in the region of Niagara

The cover of the cookbook "Niagara Cooks" is shown in a handout photo. Author Lynn Ogryzlo's heart and soul is in the region of Niagara

Lynn Ogryzlo’s heart and soul are in the region of Niagara, particularly in its bountiful harvest.

So it is not surprising that as a food writer she is intrigued with the growers who toil to bring some of the country’s prized locally grown fruits and vegetables to markets and the individual farm stands often located at the end of their driveways.

“Eating locally is about more than food,” she says.

“It’s about knowing the people who grow it.”

Travelling the country roads, she met the growers of everything from heritage tomatoes to Sicilian eggplant and the region’s famous peaches. It was her quest to capture the reason these farmers share their produce.

The result is Niagara Cooks II, A Seasonal Attitude, second of a series, with stunning photos by Ogryzlo’s husband Jon (Epulum Books, $24.95, paperback).

This cookbook was preceded by “Niagara Cooks, From Farm to Table.”

Her message in the latest book is about eating locally through the seasons.

“When you eat seasonally, you have the opportunity to get to food closer to where it grows,” Ogryzlo explains.

“Notice how we crave the first asparagus of spring, the greens for salads in summer and savoury flavours of corn and tomatoes in August and root vegetables with a roast in winter.

“When we crave these different seasonal foods Mother Nature is right there when we want her.”

“Niagara Cooks II” has menus for all the seasons and includes profiles of growers and their families. It celebrates the influences of the burgeoning Niagara wine industry and local cheese artisans.

Autumn is just around the corner, and fresh eggplants are in abundance at farmers’ markets. Here from Niagara Cooks II is Ogryzlo’s unique recipe using this versatile vegetable.

Potted Eggplant

2 small eggplant, cut crosswise into 1-cm (1/2-inch) thick rounds

Salt

375 ml (1 1/2 cups) diced tomatoes

1 ml (1/4 tsp) dried red hot pepper flakes

2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped

20 fresh basil leaves, torn in half

50 ml (1/4 cup) canola oil

1 garlic clove

150 ml (2/3 cup) Parmesan cheese

250 ml (1 cup) mozzarella, shredded

Toss eggplant with 10 ml (2 tsp) salt in a colander set over a bowl. Let it drain for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, warm tomatoes with hot pepper flakes, garlic and basil.

Simmer lightly for 10 minutes and season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and puree.

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Rinse eggplant well and pat dry with paper towels. In a small food processor, place oil and garlic cloves and pulse until garlic is minced. Lay eggplant slices on a baking sheet and baste with garlic oil. Bake for 5 minutes, turn slices over and baste with garlic oil. Bake for an additional 5 minutes and remove from oven.

Spoon tomato sauce into the bottom of each of 6 ramekins and swirl them to coat the bottom. Layer eggplant, tomato sauce and cheeses equally until all ingredients are finished, ending with a top layer of Parmesan. Bake, uncovered, until cheese is melted and golden and sauce is bubbling, 35 to 40 minutes.

Makes 6 servings.