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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Ratatouille My Way

I’m on a tear, cooking something new and special everyday, as my devoted readers have no doubt noticed.  My usual modus operandi is to spice things up with a hop-skip-and-jump blend of travel, book reviews, food and the occasional short fiction.  But, travel won’t start in earnest for another week or so, and I’m between books.  But, still I sally forth to entertain.

You’ll notice my recipes of late have spanned the great divide between healthy low carb entrées and devil-may-care carb-gorging.  Well, today it’s back to low carb and for a couple of very special reasons.

When possible, I like to cook something on Sunday that will fill lunch pails for the rest of the week, which brings me to reason two.  Wives can be very demanding and one thing they demand is variety.  Did I really say ‘can be very demanding?'  I meant viciously demanding. And leave the can out.

What is so delicious that it satisfies a schizophrenic wife…whoops, now I’m being redundant… five days in a row? 

I’ve got a one-word answer:  Ratatouille.  The first thing to learn is how to pronounce it.  The A-mur-i-kin version sounds more like Rata-twooy, to rhyme with dewey.  The much more sophisticated French on the other hand…and after all they own the word… say Rata-tu-ee.  Purse your lips when you say the tu part, then soften and slightly lengthen the double e like a French mouse who just learned the disadvantage of being the first one to the cheese.

With a cooking time of four to five hours, this dish screams for a slow cooker, but since I don’t have one, I settled for a conventional oven set at 275ºF (135ºC)

Ratatouille My Way

There is no ONE recipe for ratatouille.  My guess is, every wife and scullery maid in Provence has a slightly different approach. So, rather than insisting on just one way to peel a potato, I humbly title this version Ratatouille My Way.

2 Medium unpeeled eggplants cut in a medium to small dice
3 Medium zucchini, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced
2 Medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
8 Cloves of garlic, peeled, thinly sliced, then roughly chopped
1 Large red bell pepper, medium dice
1 28oz can tomatoes (I use whole tomatoes and crush them by hand)
1/3 Cup olive oil
¼ Cup Balsamic vinegar
2 Tablespoons dried oregano
1 Tablespoon dried coriander
A fist full of fresh basil leaves, removed from the stalks and roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil on medium to low. Add the onion and garlic.  Cook and stir until they are limp and barely golden.  Careful not to burn them!

Add the diced eggplant, bell pepper, and sliced zucchini and mix well.  Stir frequently.

When the vegetables have cooked down a bit and are looking limp, add the hand-crushed, undrained tomatoes, Balsamic vinegar and herbs.  Stir well.

At this point there will be a lot of liquid in the bottom of the pot.  Bring to a boil.

Cover and put the pot in the pre-heated oven.  Cook for four to five hours.  The vegetables should be very soft, but there will still be a lot of liquid.

Put the pot back on the stovetop and bring to a boil.  Stir occasionally and cook until the liquid is greatly reduced.  You’re not making soup!  This is a hearty, filling blend of sumptuous vegetables that can stand up to a hearty meat dish, and demanding wife.

Voilà!  C’est magnifique!  But, don’t forget the wine!  And tell your wife, of course I didn’t mean her!

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