Ratatouille Tonight…Not the Movie!

 

Summer time is the best time to cook with garden produce; makes the most sense, that’s when they are at their peak of quality and variety. I love to make this dish every year in the late summer particularly when I have most of the vegetables growing in my garden.  Ratatouille is a French dish made of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, peppers and lots of olive oil and basil. To me it tastes more Italian with all those veggies and the olive oil and basil. It’s a great side dish with grilled meats or fish and I love it inside an omelet or alongside a slice of quiche.  And yes, I know there was a kids movie out in 2007 by the same name.  Disney even came out with their own recipe for ratatouille!

Lots of veggie chopping for this delicious dish and then you should stir it carefully as the mixture cooks in a big pan. I like to make it in a wok or paella dish. I have a Teflon paella dish that I use these days; holds a lot and things don’t stick to it.

Tips: The amounts are somewhat fluid; I don’t really measure the veggies; just use an approximate amount. Be sure to cook the eggplant until it is mostly done before proceeding to the next step or your dish will be less than stellar.  You can use red, orange, yellow or green bell peppers and yellow summer squash works just as good as zucchini. I used a huge pale green bell pepper in my photographed version. Just makes sure all your vegetables are fresh and best quality.

 

 

Ratatouille  by Angela, makes about six servings

Ingredients:

2 medium onions

4 tbsp. olive oil divided

1 large eggplant – cut into rounds and then across into ½ in slices (don’t peel)

1 med zucchini  – cut into 1/3 inch rounds and halved

2 large tomatoes, diced

2 garlic cloves – minced

1 large red or green bell pepper- cut into long slices, can half them

1-2 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 tsp. brown sugar, optional

1 Tbsp. dried basil

1 tsp. sea salt (to taste)

Directions:

Put 3 tbsp. of the oil in a large frying pan; 16 inch or wok works well. Add the eggplant slices and toss the slices around to evenly soak up the oil.  Fry turning occasionally; try to get them at least half done and then add the zucchini half moons.  Keep frying until both are just about done.  Turn out into a big bowl.  Add the rest of the olive oil and when it is hot; add the onion bits. Cook about 5-6 min until softening.  Add garlic and cook a minute.  Add the sliced pepper and cook 5-6 minutes until softening.  Add the diced tomato.  Stir well.  Cook about 5-6 minutes and add the tomato paste and sugar, stir well, add back the zuke/eggplants and  until mixture looks mostly done; maybe 10 min.  Add the basil and salt and cook another couple of minutes. spicy tomato jam 006  Great cold the next day; aging in the fridge melds the flavors together.

Hearty Shepherd’s Pie

Been cold for several days: I think we all are craving warm comfort food.  I made this several weeks ago for company and it was a big hit. We had it again last weekend for Joe’s birthday (he loves it for his special meal every year!) The potato crust is satisfying and the gravy chock full of meat and veggies is richly flavored.  This is an Alton Brown recipe with a few minor changes.  I added red wine, more veggies and I sometimes leave the egg out when I make the potato crust.   The red wine makes the gravy taste perfect. Plus I used different meat and changed the flour to make it a gf choice.

I know the list of ingredients might seem a bit daunting but it does go together fast. Just chop all the veggies first and brown the ground meat while your potatoes cook.  We had homegrown potatoes for the crust for that company meal; oh so flavorful and homegrown peas and local corn in the filling.  Yumm!  The leftovers made a great lunch.  Sure warms the tummy on a chilly day.

I used a bit over a pound of meatloaf mix and some ground turkey meat.  Another time it was ground chuck with a touch of meatloaf mix.  The traditional meat is ground lamb; also tasty.  You can use plain ground beef or even just ground turkey.  All work fine.  I also have a recipe for a vegetarian shepherd’s pie full of veggies with amazing gravy!

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curry, shepherds pie, banana cream pie 027Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

For the potatoes:
2 pounds russet potatoes
1/3 cup half-and-half
3 tbsp. unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 egg yolk (optional)
For the meat filling:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup chopped onion
3-4 carrots, peeled and diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb or meatloaf mix
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons rice flour
2-3 teaspoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth

½ cup dry red wine
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup fresh or frozen English peas
Directions

Peel the potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch dice. Place in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Set over high heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, uncover, decrease the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until tender and easily crushed with tongs, approximately 10 to 15 minutes. Place the half-and-half and butter into a microwave-safe container and heat in the microwave until warmed through, about 35 seconds. Drain the potatoes in a colander and then return to the saucepan. Mash the potatoes and then add the half and half, butter, salt and pepper and continue to mash until smooth. Stir in the yolk until well combined.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

While the potatoes are cooking, prepare the filling. Place the canola oil into a 12-inch saute pan and set over medium high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the onion and carrots and saute just until they begin to take on color, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the lamb, salt and pepper and cook until browned and cooked through, approximately 3 minutes. Sprinkle the meat with the flour and toss to coat, continuing to cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, chicken broth, Worcestershire, rosemary, thyme, and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer slowly 10 to 12 minutes or until the sauce is thickened slightly.

Add the corn and peas to the meat and gravy mixture, stir for a few moments. If it seems very thick with really no gravy, add up to 1/2 cup water to thin it a bit (it will get thicker as it bakes) and spread evenly into an 11 by 7-inch glass baking dish. I have a lovely oval ceramic casserole Joe gave me that is perfect for shepherd’s pie.  Top with the mashed potatoes, starting around the edges to create a seal to prevent the mixture from bubbling up and smooth with a rubber spatula. Place on a parchment lined half sheet pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or just until the potatoes begin to brown. Remove to a cooling rack for at least 15 minutes before serving. curry, shepherds pie, banana cream pie 028

I searched long for a good recipe that had corn in it as that was what my guy wanted, I was dubious but this is such a tasty mixture I am a convert to corn in my shepherd’s pie!

Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2008, foodnetwork.com

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/shepherds-pie-recipe2.print.html?oc=linkback

Pasta Fagioli Soup Will Warm You

The soup I love to serve in the dead of winter is pasta fagioli meaning pasta and bean soup, Neapolitan style.  It is full of veggies and flavor.  Not to mention beans and pasta.  Yes, I make it now with gluten free pasta, same recipe as always.  I use elbow pasta by Barilla; great flavor and held its shape well.  elbowsTry not to overcook it though as gf pasta goes from done to mush easily if you are not paying attention!  This rib sticking soup will be a meal if you add a salad and a slice of gf bread.  I made it for my family the other week with a lovely new bread recipe which I will have to share sometime soon.  It was a big hit.  Warm, flavorful, satisfying and sure fills the tummy.  I made it with dried beans I soaked overnight and cooked until pretty soft.  White beans work too, navy beans come to mind as suitable. You can even use a couple of cans of beans; I did it recently with cannelloni beans and a can of fava beans; very Italian…

My version has lots of veggies; if you don’t want them all; leave some out! My secret vegetable: I often use small cubes of turnip as they hold their shape well and add a subtle tasty flavor to the soup. turnips No one ever guesses they are in there; looks like cubes of potato.   Or add more veggies, what is in your fridge?  I have used green beans, summer squash cubes or peas.

Secret weapon: I always add a cheese rind or two saved from a chunk of Parmesan cheese. It really ups the flavor of the soup.  And if you get a bit of it in your soup bowl the oozy cheesy goodness will be your prize!

Pasta Fagioli Soup

2 cups of dried cranberry, navy or kidney beans, soaked overnight in lots of filtered water.  Be sure to pick over them for foreign objects.

1 bay leaf

1 quarter inch thick slice of prosciutto (leave out for vegetarian version)

¼ cup EVOL (extra virgin olive oil)

1 cup chopped yellow onions

1 cup chopped carrots

½ cup chopped celery

½ cup chopped turnip

3 minced garlic cloves

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1 can plum tomatoes chopped (or 1 lb fresh ones chopped in the summer when they have decent tomatoes available)

¼ tsp red pepper flakes

1 to 1 ½ tsp sea salt

1 cup elbow macaroni, gf

Directions: Drain the soaked beans, rinse well, return to cleaned pot and cover with fresh filtered water, add bay leaf and cook 1-2 hours until soft. Add water if it gets low.  Turn off and let rest while you make soup.  Skip step if you use canned beans; do drain them and rinse. Just add them where you would add the beans you soaked and cooked yourself.

Heat EVOL in big sturdy soup pan, I like a thick bottom to keep the soup from burning easily. Add onion and cook 5-6 minutes, add garlic, stir and cook a minute, add prosciutto which you have diced up into small squares and the parsley. Cook for a couple minutes, add the tomatoes, carrots, celery, turnip, hot pepper and stir well.  Add a tsp. of salt.  Cook uncovered about 12-14 minutes.  Add any bean water in the pan. I often end up adding 1-4 cups of water during this point if there is no bean liquid. Mush up half the beans in a food processor or with a potato masher. Add to soup. Reheat and cook 5 minutes, add rest of beans, reheat and then add the pasta.  Cook just the length of time the box says, stirring it every 2-3 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed and some fresh black pepper.  Turn off and let stand 10 minutes before serving.  I sometimes drizzle some best quality EVOL on the top of each bowl before digging in. A big bowl of that will warm you up for sure!

Originally posted by me in January 2015.

 

Sweet Corn Shortcut

Sweet corn season is almost here.  In some places really good sweet corn can be had already!  I don’t know about you but when I only am making one or two ears it seems silly to fire up a tall pot of water.  I do steam the corn which only takes an inch or so of hot water but still…too much to do.

Last summer, on a hot day, I realized there was a quick and easy way to make an ear…or two without that big hot pan of water and steam. I just take a large frying pan, put a quarter inch of water in it, sprinkle of salt and let it heat until bubbling.  I then lay in my ear or two which I have husked and removed all the silk.  Then the pan is topped with a lid or an empty pizza pan if your frying pan is too big for your lids.  Cook it the usual time; depends on how fresh the corn is.  The fresher your corn ears, the less cooking time you need.  The steam in the pan will cook it really fast.  Maybe 6 to 8 minutes.

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Hard to see; black pan. But the corn is in a small pool of bubbling hot water.

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And the bonus is that if it runs out of water your ear will get a bit of carmelization going which only adds to the flavor.  In fact I hope it gets browned a bit; sometimes I rotate the ear to brown it on another side.  Remove with tongs when your corn reaches the done stage you like.  Sometimes I take a quick bite to test for eating readiness!

Serve your ear(s) with salt and butter and enjoy fresh corn without heating the kitchen up much.

Ten Bean Storm Soup

Day two of this storm, or is it day three? Hah! Anyway, time for another hearty one pot meal.  This one is my multi-bean soup with Italian sausage.  I started with a 1.3 lb bag of 4 bean mix and added two kinds of lentil and a bit of a few others.  The critical thing is that, if you have celiac, most 16 or 15 bean mixtures for soups contain barley which we are hugely allergic to. After much searching I found a four bean mix out at Echo Hill country store (Berks County) and added some French lentils; maybe ¼ a cup and some red lentils; another ¼ cup plus a ¼ cup of dried garbanzo beans and a sprinkling of dried limas.  You can use what ever blend you like but I like a good mix for a rich thick stew.  Let me know if you find any other mixtures that are barley free.

bean mix

My soup has Italian sausage but you can leave that out if you want a vegetarian version.  Ditch the bouillon cube if you are going that direction.  I personally love sausage in a bean stew. Gives you lots of meaty flavor and a healthy dose of protein. I am guessing you could use other things like smoky ham chunks or maybe a ham hock?

I enjoyed a hot bowl of this potage with a slice of toasted multigrain gf bread.  It made a full meal without anything else being necessary.   A fresh crunchy salad would go well if you want to round your dining experience out with some greens!

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Ten Bean Soup with Sausage

Soak 1- 1/12 pounds of dried beans in water to cover.  I set the lentils aside and added them after the soaking as they don’t need the same treatment the other beans need.  Either bring to a boil and let stand an hour or just let stand in the cold water overnight.  I did the quick version!  Drain them well and rinse even better before returning the swollen legumes to the rinsed pot. You want to get rid of the soaking liquid as it is full of the stuff that causes intestinal gas so rinse dem beans! Cover with fresh filtered water, an inch or so above the beans and add a bay leaf.  Cook 1 hour, pour in more water as needed and stir so it doesn’t stick or burn.  Then, add the lentils and cook another hour until the beans are nearly tender.  It is hard to say when beans get done, depends on a number of factors including the age of the beans, I taste often to check for tenderness. And stir that pot! As they are approaching that almost done spot start the rest of the dish.

Chop into dice:  3 sizable carrots  and 1 large onion

Mince: 2 big garlic cloves

Add the veggies, stir and cook 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add water if needed.  I like the soup thick but it can’t be solid so add water.

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As that cooks start the sausage.  Sauté one lb Italian sausage: brown in a Teflon pan with a touch of olive oil until top and bottom are browned and sausage is mostly done. Let cool a bit and slice into rounds or chunks, set aside.

Add to the soup:

½ a 14 ounce can of spicy diced tomatoes (plain if you like less heat)

½ tsp. dried oregano

Sprinkle dried basil

¼ tsp smoked paprika

1 beef bouillon cube

½ bunch of kale leaves cut into big shreds; I cut off the bigger stems as they can be tough.

1-2 tsp sea salt

Some fresh ground black pepper

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Kale closeup! Soup is done. Yumm~

Cook ten minutes, add more water if it gets too thick. Stir occasionally.  Taste and add more spice if you think the soup needs more. Add the sliced sausage and cook five minutes more.  Taste and add more salt/pepper as you see necessary.  Let stand 5-10 minutes before ladling out.  Now that is comfort food that is good for you too!  ten bean soup 017