This may be a little late (sorry to anyone in the Northeast or Midwest) but I had to share a recent recipe I tried for using the end of the summer bounty.
Here in Northern California, the weather has been so warm (hello 90′s in October) and we seem to have gotten our tomato/pepper/squash season to stretch a leeetle further than usual. So if you head out to the farmer’s market this weekend, you still may be able to catch some of these ingredients. The end of summer is a fabulous time for ratatouille – you’ve got tomatoes going for 50 cents a pound, and the zucchini and squash is maybe starting to look a bit like it’s seen better days – what more perfect dish for them than a fabulous french stew?
The version I made was NOT the version from the movie, although that is a real recipe (found here), and I want to try it someday. No, this version was mouth-wateringly described on the Splendid Table (one of my favorite NPR weekend shows, we always catch it on the way to/from church)… and it’s just incredible. I’m not a “gush, gush” sort of a girl, but I could rave on and on about how good this was to eat. But it does take forever. Be sure to give yourself 3-4 hours to get it done.
The principal of Francis’ ratatouille is that you make an amazing tomato/red pepper jam by cooking them pureed for hours and hours until the flavors concentrate into a something very tangy, sweet, umami, and powerful. It starts with plenty of chopping…
Begin with onions. Oh, and I had an audience for this one…
…who likes to avoid the paparazzi at all costs.
Okay, back to the onions (and garlic, fresh pressed):
Now, start to saute those, and in the meantime assess your vegetable situation:
The tomatoes were fifty cents a pound “ripes” from the farmer’s market. The taste was to die for, but in a salad they might be mushy. So they’re perfect for a little puree.
First, puree the bell peppers…
And add those to your onion pan. While it’s cooking, chop, chop, chop!
Clockwise: Eggplant, Zucchini, onions, and the prize tomatoes. The tomatoes get pureed just like the bell pepper, and added to the pot. Save the other veggies.
At this point you just let it cook. Forever. I actually started at five, but only thought to journal the time about an hour in…
By 8 PM my delicious red sauce was nearly ready. It DID taste magical. I’m not sure it made me want to “punch a hole in the wall” as Lam says, but it definitely could be described as one of the most delightful tomato bites I’ve ever had.
During the last bit of cooking I roasted the eggplant and zucchini…
Separately, on separate trays (make sure you get that nice browning, so tasty!). They’ll go into the tomato jam at the last minute.
I chopped my fresh herb (unfortunately, I only had parsley – it was good, but I’m sure fresh basil would make this dish even better)…
And then stirred it all together:
Because the vegetables are cooked separately, they hold their unique texture and shape beautifully.
All ready to serve. The smell is heavenly.
My final photos are never that great, because it’s always dark outside, and we’re always dying to eat it!!
The dish is actually vegan, but it has a rich flavor and is filling, satisfying and delicious to the nth power. My carnivore/meativore Matt was satisfied by it and loved it, and that is saying something. Do be sure to listen to the podcast and read the recipe. If you try it, let me know!