“By all these lovely tokens

September Days are here,

With summer’s best of weather,

And autumn’s best of cheer.”

—Helen Hunt Jackson

As September continues to sizzle, extending summer’s sensibilities for just a bit longer, conscious cooks have been graced with the continued availability of sensational late season crops. Take advantage of these last days of bounty to purchase plenty of ripe red tomatoes, butter and sugar or white corn, purple and white eggplant, tongue-tingling hot peppers, crisp string beans, and brightly colored sweet peppers. All of this delectable produce can be preserved in a multitude of ways and will be much appreciated when the New England chill sets in.

Tomatoes can be easily turned into marinara sauce that will taste of the sun during the colder months to come. Sweet corn can be stripped off the cob and preserved in freezer bags. Storing them in 2-4 cup measures will make it so simple to pull out a bag and quickly prepare a spectacular corn chowder, tender cornbread or waffles or veggie enchiladas. Eggplant parmigiana freezes beautifully and could be the centerpiece of a winter dinner party.

Roasting peppers is accomplished easily enough either in the oven or if the temperatures are still too stifling, get thee to a grill and impart a lovely smokiness to both sweet and hot peppers. Continually turn peppers until they are well blackened on all sides. Place these charred beauties into a paper bag and let steam for at least 30 minutes. When cooled, remove the skins, slice the peppers into strips, remove the ribs and seeds and place in small freezer containers. Add peeled garlic cloves, fresh basil, oregano and thyme and cover with olive oil. Let this mixture infuse for the day on the counter, then store in the fridge for a week, or place in the freezer for later use. Now you have the smoky, oily, garlic-and-herb-infused makings for roasted pepper soup, a delicious addition to an antipasto platter, or a sweet, smoky layer of flavor for veggie sandwiches or crostini.

The intense vitamin-rich goodness of late summer produce will help strengthen the immune system, while bolstering repair systems that sooth sun damaged skin. Vitamin A and C are found in copious quantities in all fresh produce and these antioxidant rich foods will protect and renew the body so you can prepare a delicious life!

Summer Sunshine Marinara Sauce

Makes about 4-5 cups

5 pounds fresh summer tomatoes (any variety, though plum and Beefsteak are particularly good), peeled and seeded

1/3 cup olive oil

1 medium sweet onion, finely diced

4-5 cloves fresh farm market garlic, finely chopped

1/3 cup minced fresh basil

2 large sprigs fresh thyme leaves

2 large sprigs fresh oregano

2 large sprigs fresh parsley

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

(To peel tomatoes: slice an x into the bottom of each tomato with a sharp paring knife. Lower tomatoes into a pot of boiling water and let blanch for 10-15 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to remove tomatoes and plunge them into a bowl of ice water until cooled down enough to handle. You will be able to easily remove the peels now. Removes cores and gently squeeze out seeds. Coarsely chop or tear tomatoes.)

In a large stockpot, heat olive oil and cook onion until translucent. Add garlic and cook until golden. Add tomatoes and season with salt and pepper, add herbs. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce to a simmer and let cook until tomatoes are falling apart and reduced.

Leave the sauce chunky or puree in a food processor for a smoother texture.

Let cool completely. Store in airtight freezer containers for up to 3 months.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook”, is a passionate food and wellness professional who earned her certification in holistic health counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teachers’ College. She earned her cooking experience in the kitchen! Robin specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to children and adults utilizing fresh, natural ingredients and simple, delicious recipes. She conducts cooking demonstrations for many local organizations and is available for cooking parties and private instruction as well. For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net. Robin’s blog is confessionsofaconsciouscook.blogspot.com