Monday, September 26, 2011

Lazy Ratatouille Recap

Digging through e-files today I discovered a long lost post written but never published. So despite the transition from tomatoes to apples and all that autumn entails, here's where I was at for July and August. Plus it seemed to fit with our handy dandy new header (thanks Shea). Love the tomatoes.

Julia Child (JC) is adamant about a number of things. Among them she insists that the elements of ratatouille (tomatoes, onion, garlic, peppers, zucchini and eggplant) MUST be cooked separately before they are combined. It has something to do with integrity of flavor I suppose. I’ve made JC’s version. It’s fantastic, and I must admit worth the extra effort if you have the leisure time.

However, on a Tuesday night after work I’m usually uninterested in the prospect of turning a potentially one pot, quick dinner into a 50 minute labor-of-love-homage to French cooking. Sorry, JC.

And really, while her version is outstanding there’s a million ways of deliciously combining tomatoes, onion, garlic, peppers, eggplant and zucchini. (Or aubergine and courgette if you prefer. Such pretty words.) Add to that the seasonal felicity of all those items and basil appearing at the same time in my CSA haul. With the exception of peppers: when faced with a choice between taking one less heirloom Cherokee purple (unthinkable) and an unexciting green pepper, I made the obvious choice.

Given the Tuesday-state of things I opted to violate JC’s cardinal rule of ratatouille making, and horror of horrors cooked everything in one pot. Hopefully the fact that I used my very best and prettiest pot (Le Creuset to be exact) will help make up for my sins.

And the results, while not strictly traditional, were awesome both hot and cold when incorporated into a pot of Israeli couscous cooked in broth. I don’t usually measure when I’m cooking out of my head but roughly speaking I think I used equal amounts of the aubergine and courgette; an onion; two cloves of minced garlic; most of a large container of grape tomatoes; salt; olive oil; a tablespoon-ish each of anchovy paste and tomato paste; and a sizable handful of basil leaves.

Chop the courgette into bite size pieces, toss with salt in a colander and leave in sink to drain while prepping other ingredients, stirring it occasionally. After chopping all necessary ingredients to give the eggplant time to do its thing (i.e. releasing some of its bitterness) sautée onions in oil. When they're soft add the garlic and cook until just fragrant. Add eggplant and cook until it loses some of it’s resistance. Add zucchini and sauté until crisp tender. I added anchovy and tomato paste here, stirring to fully incorporate. Then tomatoes. Turn heat to low and simmer while couscous cooks (a 2:1 broth to couscous ratio boiled in a pan until liquid is almost entirely absorbed). When couscous is done I turned off the vegetables, tossed in some chopped basil. And mixed the two pots together. Finis. 

It may not be traditional, but it was certainly delicious. This is what I love most about having a csa, the abundance of fresh ingredients that I'm forced to do something with. It's made me very appreciative of how well seasonally symbiotic crops go together. (See above recipe.) Even lacking in one typical ingredient things still taste right.