Saturday, August 06, 2005


I've got a huge garden going right now. This is a weird year, though, in that things are not coming ripe when they usually become ripe. The weather is hotter, the rain is less, so I end up with zucchini galore, tomatoes still forming (in the dozens, mind you) and eggplant just beginning to show shape. Basil is grown and wants to flower, Swiss Chard is getting too large, Cucumbers and flowering, and the Loofah is beginning to form. Peas have come and gone and are starting to die back - that's expected. Beans are starting to come in - big time.

So, what to do with these, appreciated dilemmas? Well, the zucchini is the biggest problem. The varieties (yes, plural) we grew this year are really tasty. I think we should chose the same ones next year and leave them in an equivalent location. We've got patty pans, Rond de Nice, and a light green one called Silver Streak (which has fantastic flavor). They are all producing fruit in abundance. So much so, that Shawn gave away some to her co-workers last week: 5 of them and we must have at least that many in the fridge.

I've stuffed them with bulger, tomatoes, onions, and lentils. I've filled them with basmati rice, corn, a blend of cheeses, peas, and basil. I've made zucchini fritters. I've stir fried them in a panang curry sauce. The problem is that all of these methods use up a couple of zucchini per recipe and that was not enough. So, today, I decided that despite the fact that the eggplant and tomatoes are not ready, it was time for ratatouille.

Ratatoullie is a simple dish to make. It's basically a roasted vegetable stew with an herb paste added at the end to add flavor. Simple, yet it is so satisfying. You can eat it on pieces of toasted bread as an appetizer or a whole meal. You can put it on fish or other meats. It's so good, you'll have to stop yourself from eating it out of a bowl.

The source of my recipe is from James Peterson's cookbook on French cooking. The main thing to remember is that you'll have to take the time to prepare this recipe (a lot of cutting followed by a long cooking time). The results are well worth it. Also, please remember, this makes enough for 6 - 8 people. It looks like even more than that while you're making it, but keep in mind that all things cook down in the roaster. Finally, please remember that this, like all recipes, is meant to be a relaxing exercise so omit or add ingredients as you see fit. The description below is my latest batch.

1 Medium onion, coarsely chopped

1 cup olive oil

1 ½ pounds of eggplant, peeled and sliced into ½ inch dice or smaller or larger depending upon how you like it

3 medium or 2 large zucchini cut into ½ inch dice or smaller or larger depending upon how you like it

10 medium tomatoes, peeled and seeded (as best you can, or not)

12 tablespoons freshly chopped marjoram or 1 tablespoon freshly chopped thyme or 12 tablespoons freshly chopped oregano or half of any one of these dried or a combination

1 each yellow and red bell peppers, roasted and diced (see directions below)

1 cup pitted and coarsely chopped black olives

4 tablespoons capers, rinsed

1 cup fresh basil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a roasting pan place the onions, half of the olive oil, the eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and marjoram. Toss the mixture to coat. Put into the pre-heated oven. Every 30 minutes, toss the mixture, so that it roasts more evenly. Roast for 90 minutes to 2 hours. What you’re looking for is that most to all of the tomato juice from the tomatoes is cooked off, but you don’t want to char everything. I did it in two hours this time around.

Pull the veggies out of the oven, place them in a bowl to cool off, and then turn the oven on to roast. Place the peppers on a pan, cover with a thing coating of oil, and roast each side until slightly charred. Pull them out, then place them in a paper bag in a sink or a bowl (they will continue to lose juices, so the bowl or sink collects them). Once the peppers are cool, peel and seed them and dice them into smallish pieces. Mix the peppers, capers, and olives into the cooled veggies.

In a food processor, mix the basil, garlic, and olive oil (basically, a pesto). Once thoroughly combined, mix the pesto into the veggies.

That's it! You're done. Enjoy.

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