Thursday, January 24, 2008

Ratatouille

Makes 12 servings

I have not learned how to plate this as elegantly as the clever rat, but it tastes delicious and is a wonderful way to accommodate late summer’s bounty. Freeze some for winter use.

Use a very large pot. The first time I made this I used my big spaghetti pot and as I began to add the raw vegetables, I was sure that not everything would fit. The vegetables do boil down, however, and the contents almost filled but did not overflow the pot.

The recipe is adapted from Sarah Leah Chase’s Nantucket Open-House Cookbook.

In a large pot heat:

½ c olive oil

Add:

4 large Spanish [or sweet] onions, thinly sliced

Saute, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent. Add:

6 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium eggplants, unpeeled, cut into 1 – 1½ inch cubes

Cook until the eggplant begins to soften, about 10 minutes. Add:

2 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into ½ inch wide strips
2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into ½ inch wide strips
3 medium zucchini, cut into ½ inch wide strips
3 medium summer squash, cut into ½ wide strips

3 T dried oregano
1 T dried marjoram
[OR 4 T “Italian Seasonings”]

Salt and pepper to taste

Stir and cover the pot. Reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes. Stir in:

4 ripe medium tomatoes [I use more if in season], diced
1 pound small fresh mushrooms, slice if larger [I usually omit]

Stir and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes longer. Stir in:

½ c chopped fresh basil
½ c chopped fresh parsley

Remove from heat and let cool a bit. Stir in:

12-oz mozzarella cheese, cut into ½ inch dice [I omit ]

and serve.

NOTE: Mozzarella is really optional. This soup is good warm --- plain or with just a sprinkling of Parmesan and also good at room temperature --- a pot made over the weekend will provide Sunday night dinner and a week of lunches. Serve with crusty bread.

VARIATION: When I was in Colorado last October, I had dinner at the home of family friends. Barbara is a spectacular cook and this evening's dinner lived up to my expectations: rack of lamb and an awesome Ratatouille accented with capers. Barbara said the recipe came from the original New York Times Cookbook. She also noted that the timing of adding the different veggies is key to the recipe's success (note recipe above also adds veggies incrementally). When I returned home, I took my tattered copy off the bookshelf and found "Ratatouille Nicoise":

5-6 Servings

In a large skillet heat:

1/3 c olive oil [think I would use a little less]

add:

2 or more cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, sliced

Saute until the onion is transparent.
Meanwhile prepare:

2 zucchini squash, well scrubbed and sliced
1 small eggplant, peeled and cubed
2 green peppers, seeded and cut into strips

Flour the squash and eggplant lightly then add along with the peppers to the mixture in the skillet, cover and cook slowly about one hour.

Add:

5 ripe tomatoes, peeled and sliced

and simmer, uncovered, until the mixture is thick. During the last 15 minutes of cooking [I don't think this timing is critical] add

1 T capers
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.

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