Saturday, September 10, 2011

~Ratatouille~

There is just something soul-soothing that happens when the kitchen fills with the smell of garlic and onions.  The earthy aromas percolating from the sunshine yellow dutch oven never fail to gently lift the corners of my mouth.  Ahhhh....the simple things in life are sustains us, if we only pause long enough to enjoy them.  Note to self:  Pay attention to the small acts in life that bring us joy for it is those events that make up the main ingredients of a joyous entree.



picture from marthastewart.com

Everyday Food, June 2004
  • Prep Time 40 minutes
  • Total Time 1 hour
  • Yield Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 large eggplants, (2 pounds), peeled in strips and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 4 to 5 medium zucchini, (2 pounds), cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 3 yellow or red bell peppers, ribs and seeds removed, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Directions

  1. In a Dutch oven (or other heavy 5-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid), heat oil over medium heat. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in eggplant and zucchini; season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Add 3/4 cup water; cover, and simmer until vegetables are beginning to soften, stirring once, about 5 minutes. Stir in bell peppers; simmer, covered, until softened, 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in tomatoes and thyme; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Partially cover; simmer, stirring often, until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat. If serving immediately, stir in basil. (If freezing, leave out basil.)

Photo Gallery

I ventured out to the garden and gathered fresh tomatoes, basil and a few eggplants. 
This year we had quite a few volunteer veggies around the farm.  Being such a plant-lover, I can never say no to letting them take root.  Actually, they make the best veggies of all because they really have what it takes to grow in their chosen location.  These "volunteers" have sort of asserted their right to be here by showing up unannounced.  Strangely, they often do better than their pampered veggie counterparts.  Darwin could probably have a field day here making comparisons of this sort.
Here are a few of our Thai eggplants that we grew this year.
Mr.Tomato is shown here reveling in his glory.  He knows that he's a sexy tomato.
I didn't want to buy a 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes when we have so many growing right here on the farm.  So, I decided to weigh out the 28oz. and then run them through the food processor.  I used the pulse setting for a few seconds to "dice" them.  As it turns out, doing this makes the tomatoes rather watery.  In retrospect, I should have strained out about half of the juice so as to not make the ratatouille too soupy.  The finished product was still delicious nonetheless.  However,  for aesthetic reasons straining might have been a good idea.
Here are the "diced"tomatoes after I ran it through the food processor.
Everything is in the Le Creuset dutch oven except for the tomatoes.  It really needs some red and green, doesn't it?
Much better.  In goes the tomatoes and some fresh thyme from the garden.
A final touch of basil.  And, VOILA, a farmhouse favorite: fresh ratatouille (Rat-ah-too-ee).  This is actually a French peasant dish, a vegetable braise, as it combines a plethora of fresh ingredients that are typically found on most small French Provencal farms.  The only ingredients that I purchased for this dish were the olive oil, and the onions. 

Next time though, I will take the time to dice the tomatoes myself if I want a thicker consistency. After talking with my father, he told me that making the ratatouille in a wide, low French oven, often called a Rondeau, would have helped to reduce some of the liquid, thus concentrating the flavors. The whole idea is to use a low, wide, heavy vessel in order to promote the slow evaporation of the liquid to produce a thicker sauce to increase the flavor intensity by reducing the amount of liquid in the dish.  Be sure to use a low, enameled cast iron vessel such as Le Creuset, or a less expensive 12 inch Lodge enameled cast iron braising pan which you can find at Target, or online. 

Avoid any bare, unenameled cast iron vessel when braising ingredients because the bare iron will chemically react to the acids in wine, citrus, tomatoes or any acidic food that affect the color and flavor negatively.   

Vegetable braises like this also benefit from resting in the refrigerator for a day to intensify their flavors.  As you can see, modifying this recipe to your own tastes and preferences is easy to do.  For instance, you could add other vegetables or even add sauted cubes of meat or foul, if desired.  Overall, this was delicious dinner; a perfect blend of some of my favorite homegrown garden veggies.  The flavor of each ingredient remained distinct, as opposed to a creamy hash of vegetables. 

~Dinner Was Served~

2 comments:

FILOLI said...

Very nice! I love the advice that you give about the proper cookware to use! I think that so many people get frustrated because they are not using the right equipment and give up.

Love reading your posts! It is truely inspiring!

Hugs-

The Green Mama said...

Dear Filoli,

Thank you! Welcome aboard my friend :)

Live Well,

Morgan

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