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Layered Baked Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a vegetable side dish filled with wonderful flavors.  Every time I say the word ‘Ratatouille’ I have to smile and think of the Disney animated film Ratatouille. The young rat, Remy, dreams of becoming a famous French chef.  Such a funny film, great to watch with children, grandchildren or in the privacy of your own adult home…no one needs to know you’re watching a cartoon!

Celebrate after watching the film by enjoying the real deal!

LAYERED BAKED RATATOUILLE

2 cups (16 oz.) crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 small onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dry) (plus more for sprinkling)
½ tsp. salt (plus more for sprinkling)
¼ tsp. pepper (plus more for sprinkling)
2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced*
2 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced*
2 small eggplant, thinly sliced*
2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1” squares
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese, to top (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • Spread 1 tbsp. olive oil in the bottom of a 9 inch cast iron skillet. In a small bowl, mix the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into the base of your skillet.
  • Layer the sliced vegetables vertically around the skillet, packing them as tight as you can. (We find that it is easier to layer the zucchini, squash, and eggplant in the skillet and then go back in and tuck the red peppers within the layers after the other vegetables have been filled in.)
  • Season the top of the vegetables with additional salt, pepper, and thyme. Drizzle with more olive oil.
  • Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until bubbly and the vegetables are softened and starting to brown slightly.
  • Garnish with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Recipe from Curiouscuisinere.com

New Favorite

Smoky Eggplant Dip

Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables. It started with fried Eggplant in my Mother’s kitchen, and through the years I have experienced eggplant in many ways.  I have made Ina Garten’s Eggplant Spread dozens of times.  This recipe is more like baba ganoush, with that wonderful smoky flavor.  The dip would be wonderful served with a fresh Greek Salad.

SMOKY EGGPLANT DIP

Makes about 2 cups

2 medium eggplants (about 1 pound each)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt, or to taste
6 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste), well-stirred if a new container
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced or pressed
Juice of 1 lemon, plus more to taste, if desired
Pinch of cayenne or aleppo pepper
Pinch or two of ground cumin
2 tablespoons well-chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
Toasted sesame seeds or za’atar for garnish (optional)

  • Heat oven to 375°F.
  • Brush a baking sheet or roasting pan with 1 tablespoon olive oil, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt.
  • Prick eggplants a few times with a fork or tip of a knife. Over a gas flame, grill or under a broiler, evenly char the skin of your eggplants. I like mine quite smoky and like to leave no purple visible. Transfer to a cutting board, and when cool enough to handle, trim off stem and cut lengthwise. Place cut side down on prepared baking sheet and roast for 30 to 35 minutes, until very, very tender when pressed. Let cool to room temperature.
  • Next Step Option 1: Food Processor: In a blender or food processor: Scrape eggplant flesh from skin and into the work bowl. Add tahini, lemon, cayenne, cumin and 1 tablespoon parsley. Blend in short bursts (pulses) until combined but still coarsely chopped.
  • Taste and adjust ingredients if needed. You may wish to add more salt and lemon.

To serve: Spoon into a bowl and drizzle with remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Scatter with second tablespoon of parsley, and some toasted sesame seeds or za’atar, if desired. Serve with pita wedges or naan.

Recipe from Smittenkitchen

Book Club · New Favorite

Poisonwood Bible and African Themed Potluck

Poisonwood Bible (1998) was our recent Book Club read. I remember trying to read this great book in the late ’90s but work, teenagers and life interrupted  my reading experience.  I was delighted when our Book Club added the book to our 2014 list. While the book is long, the time flew by as I read this marvelous book by Barbara Kingsolver.

The book was originally suggested to me by my sister-in-law, Betty, when they were living in Malawi, Africa on a medical and education mission. During their time in Africa, Betty wrote many emails to family and friends capturing the many wonderful and tragic moments there.  Poinsonwood Bible brought back a flood of memories from her stories.

Our book club always begins the evening with a potluck dinner with a theme from the book, so African recipes it is! Betty was kind enough to mail me her cookbook, The Malawi Cookbook:

Malawi Cookbook
Malawi Cookbook

The cookbook was originally published in 1972 by the Malawi Ministry of Health to raise money for children’s vaccinations and the Save the Children fund.  Malnutrition is one of the leading causes of morbidity in young children in developing countries.

The recipes are fascinating and I will keep a few for my future cooking experiences, although I doubt I will ever serve Bee Larvae, Flying Ants, Grasshoppers, Crickets and Locusts.  Instead, I decided to use the eggplant recipe that Betty shared directly with me. I love eggplant, made any which way, so this was a perfect choice. As Betty shared, Mashed Eggplant is served everywhere during harvest season.

Other wonderful dishes shared at our dinner were Ingera (sponge bread), Chicken and Peanut Stew (recipe to appear in Friday’s post), Fried Plantains, and an array of Ethiopian dishes from a local restaurant.

I took several wonderful pictures of the Eggplant and Peanut Spread, to later discover I didn’t have my memory card in my camera. My apologies but let me assure you the dish was a big hit, even for those that confess to not liking Eggplant. Serve this spread with wedges of pita bread or, for those eating gluten-free, a gluten free cracker.

The only change I would make the next time I make it, would be to roast the eggplant in the oven to decrease the amount of fat in the dish.

Eggplant

MASHED EGGPLANT & PEANUT SPREAD

2 pounds eggplant, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons crunchy peanut butter (in Malawi, they would use local made groundnut butter)
salt and red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Prepare the eggplant in the usual way of slicing, salting, weighing down the eggplant during the two hours you are extracting the liquid and bitterness.  
  • Pat dry, then fry eggplant slices for about five minutes in the olive oil, turning once.  
  • Mix and pour remaining ingredients over the fried slices, mash with fork, then serve with pita wedges.  (I admit to having used a food processor which made the finished product a bit smoother).

 

 

 

New Favorite · Skinny · Vegan · Vegetarian

Summer Veggie Stir Fry

Recently I went to the Highland Ranch Town Center Farmer’s Market, http://www.denverfarmersmarket.com/locations.htm, a dangerous place to be when you are hungry. My daughter, Megan, and son-in-law, Christian, and I strolled through the market sampling and buying more than we really needed.  However, the wonderful dishes that came from the veggies and fruit were summer delicious! There is nothing in the world like fresh vegetables and fruits.

We bought a squash new to us, a round, globe squash. I asked the vendor how she cooks the squash and one of her suggestions was a Vegetable Stir Fry. I also decided to throw in a chopped Japanese Eggplant.   I tried, I liked, I shared.  Enjoy!

SUMMER VEGGIE STIR FRY

Chopped yellow squash, globe squash, zucchini, eggplant (optional), peppers (bell, Anaheim or whatever you like), onion, garlic, fresh sweet corn, fresh tomatoes, herbs of your choice (I used a blend of thyme, oregano, marjoram, rosemary, and basil), salt & pepper.

Sauté the onions, peppers and garlic in about 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.  When softened, add the chopped squash, eggplant, peppers and seasoning. When the squash is beginning to soften, add cut cooked fresh sweet corn and 1-2 chopped fresh tomatoes. Continue to cook/stir until all vegetables are cooked to your liking.

I made a large batch and had leftovers for 2 days. It seemed to get better every day, just like a wonderful batch of soup.

My Roots · New Traditions

Roasted Eggplant Spread

Roasted Eggplant Spread

My love of eggplant began when I was a young child.  My mother would peel and slice the eggplant, sprinkle with salt, and let rest on paper towels for 30-45 minutes to remove the bitterness.  She would then flour, salt and pepper the eggplant, and brown the eggplant slices in hot oil.  The hot eggplant slices were then put on a slice of bread and eaten as a sandwich.  I STILL love eggplant this way but have searched for healthier ways to cook eggplant.

This spread is a new favorite.  Rumor has it that the original recipe came from the Barefoot Contessa.

It is difficult for me to resist eating the cubed eggplant straight from the roasting pan but the majority usually makes it to the food processor.  I often eat this as a side dish as well as a spread. Either way…you can’t beat the wonderful flavor of eggplant.  YUM!

ROASTED EGGPLANT SPREAD

2 medium eggplant, peeled
2 red bell peppers, seeded
1 red (or sweet) onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Cut the eggplant, bell pepper, and onion into 1 inch cubes. Toss them in a large bowl with garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper.

  • Spread on greased baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes until the vegetables are lightly browned and soft, tossing one time during the roasting process. Cool slightly.

  • Place the vegetables in a food processor. Add the tomato paste and pulse to blend. Add salt and pepper to taste.

  • Optional: serve with crumbled feta cheese on crackers, bread or pita chips.