Sunday, June 23, 2013

Happy Summer! Ratatouille!



How was your first day of summer?

On the home front, we started off summer with a nice summer rain.  To follow all the nice spring rains that we've had.

So, for the start of summer, I got to making a dish that I make every summer, ratatouille.

If you are not familiar with the dish it is a French Provencal dish that began a long long time ago.  Touiller mean to shake or toss food well.   So, while I have seen recipes where the ingredients are layered and look lovely, reminiscent of Remy's concoction in the Pixar film Ratatouille, my recipe that follows is not one of those.  As long as this dish has been around, I seriously doubt that the peasants who created it, fussed that much either.  Don't get me wrong -it is a labor of love, but other than simple chopping of veggies, and allowing 3-4 hours for creating, it need not be a soul wrenching endeavor.

This recipe makes about 6 quarts.  So, put some in the freezer to enjoy in the winter when you need
a French Provencal pick me up; or give a quart or so to the neighbor and make friends for life. 

You will need the following:

2 pounds of Eggplant
2 pounds of Tomatoes peeled, (or you can use 2  -16 oz. cans of diced tomatoes)
2 pounds of onions (they can be mixed- I use sweet and red)
2 pounds of peppers- green, red, yellow, orange or whatever color strikes your fancy
2 pounds of zucchini and yellow squash - 2 of each.
1/4- 1/2cup of extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste- more in a bit on this
2 Bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4-6 cloves of garlic minced

Garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Before going forward let me add that this is a forgiving dish, meaning that you can't go wrong.
I have made it for several years, and even though I am a meat lover, with this dish, I always entertain the thought of becoming vegetarian.

First wash and chop eggplant into 3/4" chunks; place in large collander and toss with 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt.  Let set an hour.  After this hour,  rinse and place eggplant on baking sheet. Bake at 425 F for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes turn off oven and let eggplant rest in over till time to add to dish.

During the time where the eggplant is in the salt, or oven, go ahead with the rest of the dish.

Chop onions.  In a 6qt pot, heat 2 TBL of EVOO ; once warm (medium heat) add onions.  Stir to coat with oil, then cover and cook for 25 minutes.  Then remove from pot and keep them in a large mixing bowl or another pot.  Next, the peppers, chop then cook them in the same manner as the onions. After they're done, add them to the onion bowl/pot.  Then cook zucchini and squash for 10 minutes.

At the same time you are cooking onions, start the tomato portion.
If you are peeling tomatoes, heat medium sauce pot filled with water to boil.  Keep tomatoes on vine and after cutting an "X" on the bottum of each immerse in boiling water for 30 seconds or so.  Since you have them on the vine you can do this pretty quickly.  After immersion in boiling water, remove and place in bowl with ice water to stop cooking.  Skins should peel off easily.  Then chop tomatoes.
Use the same pot you boiled water in, (dump water) cook tomatoes, a dash of sugar, the bay leaves, thyme, and minced garlic for about 25 minutes over medium heat.  If you are using canned tomatoes, cook with dash of sugar, bay leaves, thyme and garlic, for about 25 minutes.

Time to put together:

Add onions and peppers, back to the pot with the zucchini and squash.  Then add the eggplant, and the tomato mixture.  Cook all together for 15- 30 minutes uncovered over medium heat.  Garnish with fresh basil.

The uses for this are boundless.  I like it over cous cous with a little goat cheese  as a side to chicken, lamb, or beef- burgers or steak.  Also, it's good hot or cold; mixed in with scrambled eggs, or put in a quiche shell, top with whatever cheese you like and voila! A lunch dish that's great for a friends' luncheon. 

Hope you enjoy it and have fun experimenting.

Today is a sunny summer day, so we'd best get out to enjoying it.

A bientot!  (see you soon)

S.