Sunday, June 20, 2010

Making ratatouille today. I'm thinking it'll be dinner tonight, then lunches for pretty much the rest of the week...unless I get sick of it, in which case I'll freeze it for later.

Let me just say up-front, especially to my French friends, this is pretty loose-handed ratatouille; I consulted Julia but my version is getting simmered for several hours in a crock pot. If that turns it into mush, then I will have learned a lesson. I added a few things Julia didn't call for, such as marjoram, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and bay leaves. I also tossed in a fat teaspoon of pre-chopped garlic and a sliced stalk of green garlic I had lying about.

So, first I emptied two 15 ounce cans of tomatoes into the crock pot. I happened to have a can of whole tomatoes and one with stuff in it, like onion and celery. Doesn't matter, as long as it's tomatoes. Fresh tomatoes are ideal; but I've never met a canned tomato that didn't measure up. I threw in the herbs, and some salt and pepper and turned the pot on low to warm up while doing the other stuff. (The picture above has eggplant and a few pieces of onion and zucchini in it because I didn't think to take pictures until I was well along in this process.)

Then I chopped up the 1 eggplant and 2 zucchini into pretty large chunks (I wanted more zucchini but I'd already eaten the other 2 in salads earlier this week). I figured since they would be cooking for several hours, maybe bigger pieces would keep them from turning to mush as quickly. We'll see. I filled a big bowl with water and shook maybe two tablespoons of salt into it, and stirred it well, then plunked the eggplant and zucchini into it. I put a pot on top to keep them submerged; eggplant floats - who knew? (The salt water trick is Julia's. I assume it draws out excess water so they don't dissolve while cooking.) Left that there for half an hour and went and did something else - oh yes, I chopped up the other vegetables: a whole yellow onion, a red, a green, and a yellow bell pepper, a stalk of green garlic.

After soaking the eggplant and zucchini for 30 minutes, I put them in my salad spinner and spun them, and turned them out onto a clean dishtowel and patted them dry. I heated olive oil in the skillet at a high-med. high temp until it started smoking, then threw in two cups of the big veggies at a time:

You're just singeing them to seal in the juices so it only takes a minute or two, stirring a couple times to turn each piece over. Once they're showing toasty little brown areas all over, put them into the crock pot.

When the zucchini and eggplant are mixed into the tomatoes and herbs, you then add some more olive oil to the frying pan (the previous vegetables will have soaked it all up) and sauté the onions and peppers and garlic (I added the pre-chopped garlic at this point) until they're translucent and giving off their juices. Put that in the crock pot, add some more salt and pepper, and...

Give it all a good stir, put the lid on and go do other things for a couple hours. I'll stir it again then leave it until 6 pm or so. Some nice hearty bread, some good French cheese - Heaven! Well - I'll let you know about that..