Welcome All! I'm a dreamer, I hope you are too! A Posse ad Esse, or From possibility to reality, is a general state of mind. I hope you'll share your possibilities with me as I will with you. Namaste~

August 3, 2007

Ratatouille & Eggplant Parmesan

Tonight I cooked. I stopped by a local small farm on the way home from work earlier this week and had to use the veggies that I picked up there. I had some zucchini and eggplant, tomatoes from the yard, picked up some onion and bell peppers as mine are lagging in the garden this year and decided to make ratatouille and some eggplant Parmesan. This was not inspired by the movie mind you. I learned to love it a long time before that.
The bottle of Newcastle Brown ale next to the plate (Not a very local purchase, but I need to spoil myself once and a while.) and the not very well plated ratatouille have something in common to me, and always bring back good memories. When I was 19 I was invited to England for a semester to study at the University of London. During my time there I fell in love with Newkie Brown (Newcastle Brown Ale). I needed to work to save money before I went there though and took a job for the summer at a small mom and pop cafe. "The French Gourmet", was a great place to work. The owner and her son and daughter were like family to me, and taught me a lot about cooking. Ratatouille was one of my main duties every week. So to me these two are a great combo. One helped get me to the other.
If you've never made it, you really ought to try it out. You can eat it alone in a bowl like a vegetable stew, or have it for breakfast over a fresh omelet with Swiss cheese, or like tonight serve it with something else like Eggplant Parmesan and soak it up with some french bread and olive oil.
When I cook, unless I am following a strict recipe, I just wing it. I don't generally measure anything and season to taste so my recipe is a little vague; do with it what you will. You can substitute for what is available if you like, what I used were the traditional Provence ingredients.

Onion cubed (1 inch or so); I used two good sized ones.
Bell pepper cubed ; 1 large or two smaller ones.
Zucchini cubed; I had about 3-4 cups I guess.
Eggplant cubed; about 2-3 cups.
Tomatoes cubed, If you have a lot of fresh tomatoes use only those, cube about 5-6 cups worth. If you are short on tomatoes you can supplement what you have with a can of diced tomatoes, and a small can of tomato sauce. (That's what I had to do.)
1 Whole Head Garlic peeled and chopped rough.
Herbs; basil, thyme, parsley (I also added a little rosemary because I like it.)
Olive oil
1. In a medium to large stock pot, add some butter and olive oil. Yes both, olive oil has a higher smoking point and will keep the butter from getting that burnt flavour that is will get if heated to high. I do this because I like to sweat the onions and then get the heat up high to caramelize the sugars in in them and "burn" the edges a little.
2. When the pot is heated, add the onions and salt and pepper them. Sweat them, till they are nearly translucent. Add the garlic and and then turn up the heat for a little while. Watch it here because if you burn the garlic it will be nasty. You want to see the onions starting to brown on the edges and stick to the pan just a little. These are the yummies, you want them.
3. When you see that they are browning, deglaze the pan with some white wine, or cognac if you have it. If your don't use alcohol at all use some vegetable broth or water, just be careful of the salt content in broth. I happened to have some cognac, I don't even remember why, but I added about 1.5 - 2 shots of cognac to a shot of water in a glass and added that, stirring and scraping off all the yummies that were stuck to the pan.
4. Add the bell peppers and herbs and reduce the heat to a med simmer.

(pause to smell the good smell coming from the pot... mmmmmm.) OK, back on track.

5. After about 3-5 minutes add the zucc's and eggplant and tomatoes, salt and pepper again. to taste. Cover and simmer for 45 min - 1 hour. Check and stir periodically so it doesn't stick.
6. Before the eggplant are quite done (not quite soft but not hard at all), remove the cover and cook it down a bit to condense the flavors. This is a good time for the taste test to see where you are seasoning-wise and adjust as necessary.

That's it. I hope you give it a try if you haven't had it before, it is a great summer treat to make with all the fresh veggies we have access to.

For the Eggplant Parmesan I just sliced the eggplants into 1/2 inch thick slices, mixed some bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese 50/50 and added some salt and pepper to the crumbs. Dipped the eggplant in some beaten egg and covered with Parmesan.
I fried them on a med heat in the same oil/butter mix until they were browned and just softened. If they look a bit too dark it's probably OK. the cheese will darken a little more, but tastes great regardless.

Now I think I'm hungry again, maybe a little midnight snack; ratatouille is great cold too you know?


Anonymous said...

I am impressed! Have to try this recipe - sounds and looks wonderful! Mom

Marianna said...

Ratatouille is one of my favorites! I make it completely different from yours, though. I love how adaptable vegetables are!! One trick I recently discovered that makes it a little richer is to add about 2 tablespoons of tomato paste at the end.

Andrea said...

Sounds like a lot of vegetables? Fresh vegetables, from garden??? MY garden? Ha, ha ,yeah right, I do think we have a newcastle hanging around though. Joking, I'll give it a shot and tell you how it comes out.

AnandaDevika said...

I made ratatouille last month and we took it as part of a picnic to see Shakespeare in the Park - this was my first attempt, but it was yummy! You're recipe is a little different from the one I used (no basil, more rosemary), but looks delish!

Martin said...

I also love this dish, but I cook it in the oven for 2-3 hours. LOTS of olive oil too!

I just met your blog afet listening to you on RadioWest's Podcast. I'll be here more often now!