Saturday, March 1, 2008

RATATOUILLE IN LONDON, WHO KNEW?

While I was in London recently, I had the privledge to stay with some new friends who are now very near and dear to my heart. O & Sophie live together and Sophie is an incredible cook. I'm sure it helps that she's from the South of France, but still, she is dedicated to good food, good ingredients and fun times.

It is appropriate then that the best meal we had in London was at O & Sophie's place, when Sophie cooked for the four of us. She made this incredible Ratatouille--a dish made from vegetables, basically stir-fried, French style. She also made an Olive-Cheese Cake to accompany the dish and we were in heaven.

Ratatouille inspired me for a few reasons. First, I have been trying to incorporate more fresh vegetables into my diet. When I was younger, I had an aversion to vegetables, a stubborness that I now realize was completely foolish--as veggies are amazing, versatile, full of vitamins, and relatively inexpensive to purchase, compared to meat, and delicious when cooked with garlic, spices and in some dishes--some heat. Ratatouille was a great dish because it is a main dish and feels light, fresh and healthy and is incredibly easy to make. I also appreciated the origin of the dish, it is common belief that this dish was a "peasant Farmer's dish" from the South of France--peasant in the fact that there is no meat, and meat was rather expensive & whatever meat the Farmers would have, they would sell. So the Farmers in the region would, therefore, cook up the veggies they had in abundance for themselves and their families--eggplant, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, and use the herbs and wine from the region to flavor them.

I read through a bunch of recipes and found ingredients that most had in common and came up with my own version. Unfortunately, I could not make the Olive Cheese Cake (because our Oven is not working at the moment) so I accompanied the Ratatouille with some Whole Wheat Fusilli Pasta, which worked very well. I made this dish for 3 of my girlfriends for my first-ever dinner party and it was quick, easy and a success--you should try it!


SOPHIE-INSPIRED SOUTH OF FRANCE VEGGIE STIRFRY (or Ratatouille)

EVOO
3/4 lb Eggplant
1 Medium Zucchini
1 Red Pepper
1 Yellow Pepper
Half an Onion
6 cloves of garlic
1 can Diced Tomatoes (try using fresh when Tomatoes are in season)
White Wine
Herbs de Provence
Fennel Seeds

1 lb. Whole Wheat Fusilli Pasta

1. PREP: Chop Eggplant (with skin), Zucchini, Peppers, & Onion to similar size. Take chopped Eggplant and sprinkle with salt as it sits--apparently this helps to take away the bitter taste that can sometime accompany this vegetable. Set other vegetables aside. Roughly chop cloves of Garlic.

2. In a Saute Pan cover with EVOO and turn on Medium Heat. When heated, add Eggplant, Onions and Garlic & a small palmful of Fennel Seeds (or a little less if you aren't too down with Fennel, but it does make the dish). Season with Salt & a little Pepper. Saute for a couple minutes, stirring to cook veggies evenly.

3. Then add Zucchini & Peppers. Season with Salt & a little Pepper. Also Season veggies with a small palmful of Herbs de Provence. Continue to saute & stir for about 5 to 7 more minutes, until the veggies are soft enough to eat, try a taste test.

4. Add can of Diced Tomatoes. Let simmer for a couple minutes to "incorporate" into the rest of the dish.

5. Then, my favorite, add a 1/4 of a bottle of Dry White Wine--if you want to be fancy, try getting something from France! Turn the heat a little higher and let simmer for about 3 more minutes.

6. Take away from heat and let sit. Let your guests (or yourself) take some pasta and cover with the Ratatouille.

*You just made a delicious, healthy, vitamin-packed (Vegan even!) meal in seconds--that can feed about 4 comfortably. Don't forget to finish that open bottle of White Wine.

*Ratatouille is not as versatile as, say, soups when it comes to keeping in the Fridge, but you can definately eat it for the next 2 days before it starts to loose it's integrity.

*And for those meat-lovers, the Ratatouille & Pasta would be accompanied very well by fresh sausage--I would recommend a Chicken Sausage--I recently saw one with Parmesan and Fennel or whatever kind of sausage you like!

2 comments:

Sarah said...

THIS is my go-to dish, thanks to karen! i have varied it a little bit toward the Italian side of things by switching out the French herbs for red pepper flakes, chopped up mixed olives (from the bins at whole foods---yum!), and feta cheese. I make this at least once a week, its turned into such a comfort food!

Carey said...

For some strange reason, I cannot eat tomatoes in anything, so I made this dish without the tomatoes. It tasted a little bland, so I added more herbs de provence and a pinch of garlic salt to give it an extra kick, and it was delicious. Thanks for the recipie!