Monday, July 26, 2010

Gordon Ramsay's Ratatouille

My children love Ratatouille! Yes, I mean the movie. Alex especially loves watching the kitchen scenes. He's a little chef in the making. Except when he remembers that he wants to be a doctor. (He want to "fix sick babies' brains.") We recently had a discussion about our backyard garden and all the veggies that we were growing. Somehow the conversation turned to the fact that he wants to be a doctor and when he gets older (he's not even five yet) he won't have a garden at his home. I asked him why not. "Mom, I'm going to be a doctor, not a cooking doctor!" I hope I was able to convince him that even if you're not a chef, it doesn't mean you're not allowed to grow your own food. He loves farmers markets, meat markets, Whole Foods, and yes, gasp, even Giant Eagle. I hope he keeps that love of food into his adult life.

So, in honor of their love of a little rat who knows how to cook, I made the boys Ratatouille, which they were quick to point out looked nothing like the movie version. Eh. Deal with it.

Red onion, eggplant, red pepper, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, basil, thyme, garlic, canned diced tomatoes, olive oil, salt and pepper.

Coarsely chop the onion.
Quickly chop the eggplant and pray it doesn't get brown before you get it in the pot.

Chop the pepper and watch your fingernails turn red.
Chop the zucchini.
Halve the cherry tomatoes.
Literally throw everything except the zucchini and tomatoes into a hot pan with some olive oil. Cook just until the veggies start to soften slightly.
Add the zucchini and cook until they, too, just start to soften.

Stir in the canned tomatoes.

Add the cherry tomatoes and cook just until everything is soft and fragrant. The cherry tomatoes just start to break down. At this point your kitchen will be filled with the wonderous aroma of all that is good. (Season with salt and pepper to taste.)

Chop some fresh basil and scatter over the top.
Because my family wouldn't be my family without eating meat of some sort -- I pan fried some cod fillets and placed it on top of the Ratatouille.

It was a perfect match. Nothing over-powered anything else.
This is one of my favorite dishes so far from Fast Food. I think this is the sort of dish Ramsay really meant when he said "anyone can cook" (funny -- that's a line right out of the movie, too -- wonder who took it from who?) The dish is hearty, yet so fresh you don't mind eating it on a hot summer day. It's a great harvest dish (the majority, if not all, of the ingredients can be grown in your own backyard. It's a great "clean out your fridge" sort of dish, and it's quick enough to make on any night of the week.
How long? The Ratatouille took about 35 minutes.

"Ratatouille ... Done"

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

First Harvest Dinner

So, how's your summer been going? Mine's been pretty good. Too hot for my liking, not enough money to do some of the funner things, but it's a good time to remember that the simpler things are sometimes the best.

We did make it up to Put-In-Bay, and we had a great time cruising in our rented golf cart.

I had my 20 year high school reunion picnic today. Had a very nice time with some old friends. 20 years gone, but it was like we just saw each other yesterday. I brought my Honey Almond Bars. I thought they went over pretty well.

When we got home after a hot day at the beach, I found I had enough of a first harvest to be the basis of a pretty good meal.

Our first cucumber mixed with thinly sliced red onion and tomatoes. Stir in some salt and pepper, apple cider vinegar, a splash of olive oil and another splash of raspberry vinegar. A teaspoon of sugar to cut the acidity.
Our first banana peppers sliced up.

Thinly sliced chicken breast.

Sprigs of herbs from the garden -- tarragon, thyme and lime basil.

Saute all in a bit of olive oil.

When you're nearly done, a splash of balsamic vinegar (I wish I had white balsamic, but what I have does add a nice caramel color). Saute just until things start to carmelize a bit.

It may not be the most colorful dish, but I really was tight on time because hubby had to leave for work in 20 minutes. So, yes, this is a wonderfully quick dinner.
Some variations I've done in the past, if I have more banana peppers, I skip the balsamic because the peppers add more than enough flavor. Sometimes I add a small handful of feta cheese after removing the chicken from the pan, and throw in a few sliced cherry tomatoes. Other times, I've wrapped up the sauteed chicken in a flour tortilla with a dab of sour cream and cheddar cheese.
So, happy first harvest

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