Ratatouille TWO Ways
"When I pass a flowering zucchini plant in a garden, my heart skips a beat."
~ Gwyneth Paltrow
I feel like I wait and wait all summer for this day, then, one morning I wake up and it's here! Every day is a gorgeous, bountiful abundance of fresh vegetables. The more you pick the more you have. Most of them seem to be of the cut and come again variety.
As a young girl, this time of year was a burden, a chore. It usually meant the ladies of the house were in a hot, steamy kitchen canning veggies. I really didn't even like vegetables. I would eat zucchini in a muffin, a tomato as ketchup or even as pizza. Peppers and onions would be picked out of everything and eggplant was just a big N-O. I would do almost anything to stay out of the kitchen.
I got a new perspective on food when I worked my way through college in a resort kitchen. I discovered a whole new world of culinary inspirations. I realized I really did love to eat good food, and what I had been missing all these years as a picky eater.
I met a chef who's specialty became an unlikely favorite of mine, Ratatouille ("rat-a-TOO-ee"), a traditional French vegetable stew. And, this was way before the movie. I never got his recipe, but think I have come close by observation, trial, error, and taste. Ratatouille is basically summer squash, tomato, peppers, eggplant, and onion. Some would call it just a forgettable stew of over-cooked veggies (so this was a big step for me). In my version, the trick is to NOT overcook the vegetables and to use plenty of fresh basil, oregano, and even garlic. Lots of garlic. I actually like the fresh flavor of mine better. My version is sans eggplant!
Here are my recipes for my ratatouille sauté and a ratatouille tart.
2-4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, diced
2 slender, young zucchini/yellow summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 orange bell pepper, sliced in 1/4 inch strips
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (I like a mixture of colors)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
1/4 cup fresh chopped basil, plus more for garnish if desired
1 Tablespoon fresh chopped oregano, if you have it
2-4 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup grated, fresh Parmesan cheese
1. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the red onions and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, ~5-6 minutes. Do not brown.
2. Add the zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes, or until the zucchini are cooked but still crisp and the tomatoes have started to collapse, creating a little sauce. Stir in the fresh basil and oregano. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
3. Sprinkle Parmesan on top. Place lid on pan, turn heat to low and let simmer an additional 2-3 minutes so the Parmesan melts.
This delicious tart is as much a pleasure to look at and admire, as it is to eat! I found the recipe in one of my favorite cooking magazines. I then tweaked it a bit using fresh mozzarella or goat cheese, plus a few other variations, mainly extra herbs and black pepper.
1 slender yellow squash
1 slender zucchini
1 red bell pepper
1 red onion
6-8 oz mozzarella cheese or goat cheese or a blend. Do not use the pre-shredded cheese. It does not melt as well in the tart.
2 Tablespoons thinly sliced basil
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, minced
1-2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste
1 pie crust. Your favorite recipe or 1 ready made
1. Press pie dough into 9 tart pan.
2. Sprinkle with generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Press pepper into pie dough.
3. Flute the edges of the tart. Fold over excess to make thicker fluted edges.
4. Slice veggies into 1/8-inch slices. Use a mandoline for best results.
5. Sprinkle the shredded cheese, thyme and basil over bottom of tart.
6. Arrange vegetables around the edge of tart shell, repeatedly overlapping 2 slices each of zucchini, yellow squash, red bell pepper, and onion. Arrange a smaller circle inside the first, and so on until tart is covered.
7. Drizzle the tart with olive oil. Sprinkle with garlic powder, then season with salt and pepper.
8. Bake at 350 degrees F until tart is golden brown around the edges, about 30 minutes.
It is best to let this dish rest for about twenty minutes before cutting. This tart is also makes an excellent leftover.
In good health,