Sunday, June 26, 2011
Have Summer Bounty? Make Ratatouille.
My trips to the farmer's market look something like this:
"Wow, look at those colors!" What is it? Hmmm, I've never heard of that, but they're so pretty I'll take two."
"Oh, look! I remember when Grandma used to cook that. I haven't had it in years - and I've never cooked it myself - but I'll take three."
"Yum, my favorite. Give me a few pounds."
And then all those small purchase make one large collective purchase - more than we'll ever eat in the week. And then I come home to bags of more summer produce given to us by my parents and my husband's co-worker.
What am I to do? Make ratatouille - and freeze some for later in the season!
Ratatouille is summer's vegetable soup (although with decidedly less liquid), meaning that although you may loosely follow a recipe, you will also find it a useful dish for consuming whatever vegetables you have on hand. While, it may no longer be a traditional ratatouille, it will still be delicious.
If you've never made ratatouille you may want to start with a basic recipe like Emeril's but pretty much anyone you have will work because while they may vary in the details, they consistently begin with a base of tomatoes, eggplant and Italian herbs. Follow the recipe, but then substitute whatever you have on hand. It's also wonderfully versatile because you can either sneak in vegetables people don't like or omit them altogether.
When I made my last batch of ratatouille, I used:
red onion instead of yellow - for a sweeter flavor
banana peppers - because they are a delicious sweet pepper and my mom had given me a bunch
Eight Ball zucchini squash, green and yellow - because I had picked up some beautiful ones at the Dallas farmer's market and I'd never had them before
okra - because I love it, although we mostly eat it smothered or fried
*If you use okra, use it sparingly because too much can make your ratatouille slimy.
*I leave all of the skins on for additional nutrition, but this is surely a matter of taste.
Follow the directions on your recipe for dicing and sauteing, if you are using one. Season with salt, pepper and any fresh or dried Italian herbs you have. (Remeber to go lighter on the seasoning if using dry herbs because their flavor is more concentrated.)
*If you plan on freezing your ratatouille, you may want to undercook your vegetables just slightly so that when you reheat it, your vegetables will not be overcooked and mushy.
Although some people eat it as a side dish, I like it as the main course with lots of crusy french bread.
And if you have children, you can pair it with a showing of Disney's Ratatoille for a themed movie night!