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Eric Akis: A toast to September's bounty of local produce

Harvest of hard-shell squash, onions, corn, tomatoes, zucchini, cabbage and peppers helps fill tasty tostadas
For vegetable tostadas, toasted corn tortillas are topped are with a mix of roasted vegetables, cheese, salsa and other tasty things. ERIC AKIS

September is a fine time to buy a bounty of locally grown produce because items grown late summer start to share shelf space with those coming into season early autumn.

Some of those many items include hard-shell squash, onions, corn, tomatoes, zucchini, cabbage and peppers. Ingredients, along with others, I used to make tostadas.

Tostada is a Spanish word that means toasted. When you make tostadas, the food you are cooking in oil and toasting are fresh tortillas.

When that’s done you have crispy, flat bases to top and mound things on that you can grab and eat like you might a slice of pizza.

In my recipe, one of the toppings was made by cutting, seasoning and roasting some of the squash, onion, corn, zucchini and peppers until very flavourful, tender and aromatic.

I called my recipe “all-dressed” roasted vegetable tostadas because once those roasted vegetables were set on the tostadas they were enhanced with other complimentary tasting things. They included tangy grated cheese, sour cream, cilantro (or green onion), thinly shredded cabbage, hot pepper sauce and fresh tomato salsa.

To serve this meal, prepare and set all your ingredients in appropriate serving dishes, set them on the dinner table, and let diners create their own tostadas with them.

Note: If you want to buy locally made tortillas, the fresh corn ones I used in my recipe were made by a Saanichton company called Adriana’s The Whole Enchilada, 2140B Keating Cross Rd. You’ll find a list of stores selling their products on their website.

“All-Dressed” Roasted Vegetable Tostadas

Crisp, toasted, corn tortillas topped with a mix of roasted vegetables, cheese, salsa and other tasty things.

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Cooking time: 31 to 33 minutes

Makes: four servings

8 fresh corn tortillas

6 Tbsp olive oil (divided)

1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded, butternut squash or other squash, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

1 cup zucchini, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

3/4 cup fresh corn kernels (see Note 1)

1/2 medium orange or red bell pepper, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

1/2 medium onion, finely diced

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

• salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup thinly shredded red cabbage

• sour cream and fresh tomato salsa, to taste (see Note 2)

1 cup grated plain or jalapeño flavoured Monterey Jack or havarti cheese, or to taste

• small cilantro sprigs or sliced green onion, to taste

• lime wedges, for squeezing

• hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco, to taste

Place 3 Tbsp of the olive oil in a skillet set over medium-high heat. When hot, add a tortilla and fry 45 to 60 seconds on each side, or until golden and crisp. Remove this tostada and drain on a paper towel. Cook remaining tortillas in this fashion. Set the tostadas on a plate and set them aside until needed.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, unless the pan in non-stick.

Set the squash, zucchini, corn, bell pepper, onion, cumin, chili powder and smoked paprika on the baking sheet. Drizzle everything with the remaining 3 Tbsp olive oil, and then toss to combine.

Spread vegetables out in a single layer, and then season with salt and pepper. Roast the vegetables, stirring occasionally, 25 minutes, or until tender.

Turn oven to 200 F. Spoon the roasted vegetables into a serving bowl, cover and keep warm in the oven. Put the plate of tostadas in the oven, too.

Place the cabbage, salsa, sour cream, cheese, cilantro (or green onion) and lime wedges in serving bowls and set on the dinner table along with the hot pepper sauce, roasted vegetables and tostadas.

Now let diners plate and top their tostadas as desired with the ingredients on the table.

Note 1: One medium to large cob of corn, after shucking and cutting the kernels off the cob, should yield the 3/4 cup needed here. Frozen, thawed, corn kernels will also work here.

Note 2: Fresh tomato salsa is sold in tubs in the deli department on most grocery stores. If you want to make your own salsa, in a bowl, combine, 1 1/2 cups diced ripe red tomatoes, 3 Tbsp finely diced white onion, 3 Tbsp chopped cilantro, 1 tsp finely chopped jalapeno pepper, 1 Tbsp lime juice, 1/2 tsp honey, 1/4 tsp ground cumin and salt, to taste.

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Eric Akis is the author of eight cookbooks. His columns appear in the Life section Wednesday and Sunday.