Monday, October 18, 2010

Ratatouille


Posted by PicasaMy good friend belongs to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Hers is the typical setup, you sign up for a certain length of time, say 6 months and every week, ya get what ya get!

Mine, I get a choice if I want to buy it each week, either I say yes or no, and it's at work, easy to walk over and get it, so I have the best of both worlds.

My friend is also quite the jet setter, she is always going here or there, often out of town for a few days. I love it! Why? Cause she needs someone to eat her veg!

She gets her delivery every Wednesday, so when she is  planning a trip, I get an email from her with her itinerary and I get the food. A week ago I got the delivery and when I opened it up,and took stock, I had eggplant, tomatoes, basil, onions, peppers and squash, why it was ratatouille in a box!

I pulled out my Chez Panisse cookbook and got to work, you can see most of it all diced up in the picture above. That's what takes the most time, the dicing and slicing. Once you do that, it comes together quickly.  

Ratatouille is best served cold, odd I know, but it is and that makes it even easier to prep ahead. If you have never had it, it is a French vegetable stew, not lots of liquid, but a creamy, rich texture that goes great with fish, grilled meats or chicken.  

Don't let this recipe, or ANY recipe scare you. Cooking is an art, which means you create it with what you have. If you don't have one ingredient, it does not ruin the dish, it merely changes the dish. The absolute only time you must have all ingredients is in baking, and baking is a science.

I have never been very good at baking, I think I am more artistic!

1 large eggplant
Salt
3 onions
3 red bell peppers (or any color)
4 summer squashes
5 tomatoes
10 cloves garlic
Extra virgin olive oil
Hot pepper flakes
1 large bunch basil (about a 1/2 pound)
 
Set aside a handful of the basil leaves for garnish and make a bouquet garni with the rest by tying kitchen twine (cotton only!) all around it like a bundle.

Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes (leave skin on), salt liberally and leave it to drain in a colander.

Peel and cut up the onions, the peppers, squashes, and tomatoes, keeping them all separate. Everything should be cut into pieces about the same size as the cubed eggplant.

Smash and peel the garlic and chop it coarsely.

Press down on the eggplant to extract more water and dry it.

In a heavy bottomed pot, heat some of the olive oil and gently fry the eggplant until golden. It will stick, and get a little mashed up, don't worry. Drain and reserve the eggplant.

Add more olive oil to the pot and over medium low heat start sauteing the onions. When they are soft and translucent, add the garlic, the hot pepper flakes and the bouquet garni. Stir for a minute.

Toss in the peppers, cook for a few minutes. Add the squash, cook for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes.

Cook about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally then add the eggplant and cook another 15 to 25 minutes until everything is soft and the flavors have melded together. Remove the bouquet garni, pressing on it to extract all the flavors.

Adjust the seasoning with fresh chopped basil leaves, salt, pepper and a little extra fresh chopped garlic if you like.

Serve warm, cold or room temperature.
 
 
 
 

I have mine with a piece of fish, David and Cooper spoon a large helping on their plates, drizzle with extra olive oil and have it with grilled Italian sausage. 

Ratatouille is a wonderful, earthy taste of Provence, give it a try you may have only a week or two left for those wonderful ingredients as winter is soon upon us.
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