Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Farmer's Market Ratatouille

Last weekend was one of my three day weekends (I get flex days at work; feel free to hate me), and finally for the first time in *ages* I felt like I had the right balance of social time and alone time. Happy hour Friday, birthday party Saturday night (I helped with prep from about 6:00 on so it took up all evening), and the rest of the time to sew and run that order, of course. It actually felt like an extra long weekend and I was satisfied to finish my Mondrian dress and a BWOF blouse.

Sundays we have a bitty farmer's market in my neighborhood and I just love to go. There are a four farm stands, a butcher stand, a community garden, a dessert lady, and Breadline, a local bakery. Breadline appears to employ only French speakers, so I order my pain au chocolat en francais and feel very fancy for the rest of the morning. Then I buy gobs and gobs of vegetables and, while they last, peaches galore.

Sundays are also my day to cook, and I usually get very little sewing done because I cook for the rest of the week. This Sunday I realized I spent about 6 hours in the kitchen, with a little bit of downtime but not much! In the end I had
-a big pot of South American Black Bean Soup (for lunches)
-Carrot Cake Mini Cupcakes and Cream Cheese Icing (because I had cut up a pineapple and needed to use it in something)
-Bread Pudding and Strawberry Rhubarb Compote to top it (for breakfasts)
-No-Knead Bread, this version based on the New York Times version that swept the nation a couple years ago (I mixed this up Saturday, baked on Sunday)
-Ratatouille (for dinners)

My mom used to make ratatouille from the garden when I was a kid and course I thought it was disgusting then. Now...yum. Eggplant is a difficult vegetable. If you don't cook it right it is bitter and horrible. I mostly shy away from it because it can be so labor intensive, but in ratatouille the only labor involved is cutting it up; you don't even peel it. Everything else happens by magic.

Veggies for ratatouilleTraditional ratatouille has only tomato, zucchini, eggplant, bell pepper (capsicum to the international crowd), onion, and garlic, but I'm not a very traditional gal, and threw in a sweet pepper and some wax beans as well. Look at my gorgeous veggies! Everything came from the farmer's market except the onion, garlic, and spices/herbs (though the basil was some I dried from a farmer's market bunch). In addition to adding more veggies I also broadened the spice profile a little, and finished with red wine instead of white because I didn't have an open bottle of white.

Whole Bay Leaves Crushed Bay Leaves

The real revelation for me on this was using my mortar and pestle to crush the bay leaves, rather than putting them in whole and removing them. They smell wonderful while you're crushing them and I think they enhance the flavor of the dish.

I wanted a mortar and pestle forever (like, since I was a kid), and finally when I went to Ikea on my last hurrah with a car I got one. They are only $10, I really don't know what my issue was. Now I am obsessed with it! Fresh ground spices are really much better, and often cheaper too. Buying whole coriander seeds from the Indian section of the grocery store beats paying $5 for a small jar of ground any day! I highly recommend one if you enjoy cooking and time is not always of the essence for you. It doesn't take long, only a minute or two for the bay leaves, but I don't have hungry kids to feed who can't wait a minute or two.

Farmer's Market Ratatouille

Chop and saute in a bit of olive oil until softened
Large onion

4 medium cloves of garlic, minced

Chop into approximately equal sized pieces (I went for around 1 inch dice) and add to the saute
Small eggplant, stemmed but unpeeled
2 zucchini squashes
2 bell peppers (I had a red and a purple, but you can use any color)
1 sweet pepper

Meanwhile, coarsely chop and add to the pan after a few minutes
3 medium tomatoes, preferably heirlooms
The tomatoes supply most of the liquid to the dish (I add no water at all), so be sure to get all their juice into the pan!

Reduce heat to medium low. Add herbs, in amount given (which is a guess at how much I used) or to taste
3 bay leaves, ground
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1 1/2 tsp parsley
1/4 tsp dried rosemary
dash sage
Salt and fresh ground pepper

Throw in
1/2 Cup wax beans, chopped into 1 inch pieces

Cover pan and let simmer about 30 minutes or longer. After about 15 minutes add
1/3 Cup red wine (I used a good quality pinot noir)

We are not interested in crisp tender here; this is all about well done, falling apart veggies. When the eggplant is thoroughly tender, it's done. I like to drizzle olive oil over the bowl before serving (or, since it's only me, it's more like eating than serving) and accompany with a slice of no knead bread, with or without cheese melted on top.

Bon appetit!



-E said...

I've said it before and I'll say it again- you completely and utterly R O C K! Thanks for the recipe :)

Lisette M said...

I make a similar dish (which was passed down from my grandmother to my mother and then to me). My husband has always teased me about it calling it "eggplant surprise", now I can tell him is ratatouille. I've had a mortar and pestle it seems all my life, it was one of the essentials my mom believed I should have when I first moved out. By the way it is excellent for crushing garlic also.

Christina said...

You know, I have never had ratatouille (but I loved the movie), I should really try your recipe sometime!