August 8 : Sneak some zucchini on your neighbor’s porch day!
Can you believe it is that time of year already to sneak some zucchini on your neighbor’s porch! Honestly, it is a day to celebrate. And celebrate we should! It is the lucky neighbor who profits from the gardeners abundant harvest. Nonetheless, what can one do with all that zucchini?
The late, Julia Child bestows the virtue of ratatouille in many of her books yet it seemed to take an animated rat in the award winning Pixar film to suggest ratatouille might be something to try. Really! Ratatouille, a traditional French Provençal stewed vegetable dish, originating in Nice is a mostly Mediterranean fare, however, we too have all the local produce to adapt this delicious dish.
How? What do you need? Ratatouille can be made just the way you like it but start with the basics: onions, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, tomatoes, red, green or yellow peppers, mushrooms, and fresh or dried herbs and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Ratatouille is typically served as a side dish, but may also be served as a vegetable soup, or a meal on its own accompanied by pasta, rice or bread. Ratatouille is good as a topping for your favorite grilled meat or fish, or as a filling in a simple omelet. Did I mention it can be added to quiche? Or stuffed into a pita pocket?
There is as much deliberation on how to make a traditional ratatouille as there is about how you eat it. Do you layer it and bake it? Is it sautéed? Is it simmered? Is it eaten as a side dish, a main dish or a sandwich filling? I’ve tried them all and even found success using a slow-cooker.
Try your hand at this simple yet elegantly adaptable vegetable dish.
The provided very basic recipe can be adapted to suit your personal/regional taste. Don’t like eggplant? Leave it out! Have a lot of okra or yellow squash? Add it! Like olives, nuts or raisins? Add them to your portion. Rather not use vegetable oil? Don’t! Want to cover it in your favorite spicy olive oil? Do you have some extra zucchini? I think you get the picture.
Ratatouille does not have to look like the vibrant Pixar version yet, it is still going to garner up gracious comments and acknowledgements from those you love and cook for. Whip up your version to savor today!
2 Tablespoons any kind of oil
4 medium onions, chopped – any color, any kind
2 medium eggplant, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
4 garlic cloves, minced
6 medium zucchini, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 large green, red or yellow bell pepper seeded and cut in 1” cubes
8 to 10 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded coarsely chopped (or use a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes)
3 fresh thyme sprigs (or to taste)
1 fresh rosemary sprig (or to taste)
1 dried or two fresh bay leaves
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
In a BIG pot over medium heat, warm the oil. When it is hot, reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the eggplant and garlic and sauté, stirring often, until the eggplant cubes are slightly softened, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the zucchini and bell pepper and sauté, stirring and turning, until softened, 4 to 5 minutes more. Add the tomatoes, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, salt and pepper, and stir and turn for 2 to 3 minutes more.
Cover, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and have somewhat blended together, about 60 minutes. (slow cooker at least 4 hours on high)
Remove from heat. Garnish with minced fresh basil. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve hot, at room temperature or cold. Serves at least 10.