Posts Tagged With: bell peppers

birthdays are better with ratatouille

I’m turning 30 on Friday, but this post is about a much more famous birthday.

All you foodie folks probably know that Julia Child, if she were still alive today, would be one of those 100-year-old ladies that Willard Scott always used to introduce on the Today show.

(Does he still do that? Is he even still on the show? I haven’t watched in a decade or two…)

What amazes me about Julia Child?

She wasn’t French, and yet she brought French cooking to America before people could just plop down at a keyboard and Google recipes for beef bourguigneon or ratatouille.

She got people excited about cooking outside their comfort zone.

And she wasn’t pretentious or snooty about French cuisine–her vision was that everyday people could use everyday ingredients to make delicious food. She was down-to-earth, funny, and so charming.

I can’t say Julia’s been a direct influence on my life as a cook, because I don’t own a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking (though I’ve adapted a recipe from it at least once) and honestly am not sure I’ve ever seen a full episode of her show.

But she has influenced my cooking–and your cooking and everyone else’s cooking–the same way the Beatles forever changed the face of pop music.

Rock and pop bands today, whether they enjoy the Beatles’ music or not (or, for that matter, whether they’ve ever heard of the Beatles or not) have been influenced by Fab Four. Music today is different, and better, because the Beatles existed.

And cooking nowadays is different, and better, because of Julia.

Now, the ratatouille.

Two weeks ago, I was headed to my good friend Amy’s house for a cookout. Her husband was grilling cornish hens, another friend was bringing bread, dessert was covered, and I was supposed to bring some sort of vegetable.

I had only been back from Portland for a couple of days at this point, and Micah and I had picked up a few things from Daily Groceries, but we didn’t have a lot of any one vegetable. That made it kind of hard for me to come up with any single side dish.

What did we have? Garlic, an onion, a few tomatoes. One eggplant. A huge summer squash. Three bell peppers.

Ratatouille, it turned out, was not just a practical solution for combining all those yummy summer vegetables. It was also delicious, and a natural complement to Trey’s perfectly grilled little chickens.

slow-simmered veggie goodness

Julia Child inspired the recipe I used, which was posted by Priya on her lovely blog, quête saveur. Of course, I not only multiplied the recipe by 1-1/2 for our large group, but I also made some changes. My apologies, Julia!

What did I change? I cooked the vegetables slightly out of order and all together instead of in batches to make this a super-easy one-pot dish. And I seasoned my ratatouille differently from how Julia wanted me to, because I didn’t have any parsley but did have some other stuff that seemed like it would work.

I don’t know how my results compared with Julia’s vision, but this ratatouille was darn good.

What’s in it:

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium eggplant, about 3/4 pound, peeled and diced (salt it and let it sit for ~20 minutes while you prep the other veggies)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, about 3/4 pound, chopped
  • 1 large summer squash, about 3/4 pound, sliced
  • 3 bell peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 3-4 medium tomatoes, about 1-1/2 pounds, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 2 teaspoons dried tarragon
  • salt and pepper to taste

Step-by-step:

  • Heat the oil in your biggest skillet over medium heat.
  • When the oil is hot, add the onions and garlic and cook for 4-5 minutes or until they start to become translucent.
  • Stir in the bell pepper and squash and saute for another 4-5 minutes.
  • Drain off any water your salted eggplant has released and add the eggplant to the pan. Cook for 5 more minutes.
  • Finally, add your tomatoes, lemon zest, and herbs.
  • At this point, your ratatouille might look a little dry, not stew-y and delicious. Don’t add water or chicken stock–just let it cook for at least 30 minutes. The vegetables will release plenty of liquid, and you’ll end up with a savory, hearty pot of stew that you can easily sop up with a warm slice of homemade bread.
  • Season to your liking with salt and pepper, and enjoy!

The best thing about ratatouille is that it can be enjoyed in so many different ways.

The night I made the ratatouille, we ate it as a side dish with those aforementioned cornish hens.

The next day, I used the leftovers as a salsa for brunch of leftover steak frites and eggs:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I made a second batch at the end of last week, which we ate as an entree. First over some steamed brown rice (which was kind of bland) and then over polenta (oh, my goodness! highly recommended!).

The last of the ratatouille and polenta was also my lunch today, chosen over several other lunch options because, of course, I wanted to commemorate the Julia who inspired it. 🙂

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quick lunch – 7.2.12 – a bowl of Southern summer goodness

Summer in the South is a magical time.

A time when tomatoes plump to their juiciest fullness, when squashes just grow and grow and grow, when sweet corn practically bursts from its husks, when a myriad of hot and sweet peppers are ripe for the picking, when okra pods stretch to that perfect two or three inches, when pungent onions and garlic just beg to be dug up and sauteed in a bit of butter to mellow out and flavor everything you eat.

A time when, goshdarnit, I just can’t get away from Athens Locally Grown or Daily Groceries without spending ungodly sums of money on all those gorgeous, flavorful local veggies.

And, since I’m a teacher, summer is also the time when I can cook at least two meals a day if I want–and that’s quite often the case, because heaven knows there’s not so much time for culinary tomfoolery once school starts back in August.

So when I surveyed the contents of our kitchen a few weeks ago after a particularly splurge-y spree at the market, looking for lunchtime inspiration, here’s what I found:

all that’s missing is one of those fancy wicker cornucopias

A most inspiring collection of colors and flavors, if I do say so myself.

So I set to slicing and dicing and sauteing and stirring, and here’s what I came up with:

bright, beautiful, delicious!

What’s in it:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup dry quinoa
  • 2 cups stock or broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium sweet onion (or, in my case, 3 tiny ones), diced
  • 1 medium bell pepper, quartered and sliced
  • 1 medium summer squash or zucchini (I used zephyr), quartered and sliced
  • 1 ear of corn, cut from the cob
  • 6 okra pods, thinly sliced (the smaller okra is, the sweeter and more tender it’ll be–look for pods that are 2-3″ long)
  • a big handful of cherry tomatoes (ours were sungolds)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • a big handful of fresh basil, cut into slivers

Step-by-step:

  • In a small saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat.
  • Add the quinoa and toast it in the oil for about 5 minutes.
  • Pour in the stock/broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
  • Cover the quinoa and let simmer for about 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.
  • While the quinoa cooks, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the garlic, onion, and bell pepper. Saute for 3-4 minutes or until the onion starts to look translucent.
  • Stir in the squash and corn. Saute for another 5-7 minutes or until the squash is almost tender.
  • Mix in the okra and tomatoes and cook for about 5 more minutes.
  • Add the cooked quinoa to the skillet and stir just until the mixture is combined.
  • Season with salt and pepper to your liking.
  • Divide your veggies and quinoa between two bowls and top with the fresh basil.
  • Eat up!

Our bowls of Southern summer goodness were enjoyed warm as a light but satisfying entree. For dinner, add your favorite protein for a heartier meal. (I’m betting shrimp would be amazing.) Or try this recipe as an excellent summer salad. Just chill it in the fridge for a few hours to serve cold alongside smoky burgers, crispy fried chicken, or your favorite grilled seafood.

And, of course, I whipped this meal up from a huge heap o’ veggies that I happened to have on hand, but you could easily adjust the recipe to match your own vegetable availability and tastes. As long as you use what’s fresh and in season, there’s really no way this quinoa veggie bowl could turn out anything less than fabulous. 🙂

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supper tonight – 5.24.12 – stewed andouille

When we got the andouille links out of the freezer a few days ago to thaw, we thought we might grill them last night with…well, something. We didn’t really have a plan (when do we ever?), but we were sure we could come up with some wonderful meal using those smoky, savory Cajun sausages.

We considered defrosting a pound of shrimp to make a jambalaya, but Micah didn’t really feel like beheading and shelling and deveining a bunch of shellfish last night.

We always get our shrimp with the heads on them so we can freeze the shells and noggins for stock. When we’re really lucky (as we were a couple of weeks ago), we’re able to get fresh Georgia shrimp from Athens Locally Grown or Fook’s Foods for just $5-6 a pound. It’s pretty amazing stuff!

What we ended up making was still pretty similar to traditional jambalaya in the veggies and seasonings–just a little different in the technique, since we winged it instead of following a nice, straightforward recipe like the one I linked above. 🙂

In any case, the resulting dinner was rich, spicy, and full of flavor, with the added bonus of leftovers for lunch today!

not only did the fresh veggies make this taste extra good, but the
green and yellow peppers looked lovely with those bright red tomatoes!

What’s in it:

  • olive oil for the pan
  • 3/4 pound andouille sausage links (or another smoky, spicy sausage of your choice)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 medium bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, diced (or you could used canned)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1 cup chicken broth or stock
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to taste

Step-by-step:

  • Heat a little bit of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  • Add the sausage links and cook for about 6-8 minutes per side, turning frequently to keep them from burning.
  • Remove the cooked links to a cutting board to rest.
  • Pour a tad more oil into your skillet if you need to. Add the garlic, onion, and peppers, and saute for about 5-6 minutes or until they’re starting to soften and brown.
  • Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir until incorporated.
  • Pour in the white wine, scraping with your spoon or spatula to get all the stuck bits from the bottom of the pan.
  • Add the chicken stock and smoked paprika.
  • While the contents of your skillet heat back up, cut your sausage links lengthwise and then slice into half-moons. Or, you can slice the whole link thinly on the bias. Add the cut-up sausage to your skillet.
  • Let this simmer on the stove for a while. (I had a meeting last night and was gone for almost two hours, so we just let ours cook on the absolute lowest heat we could while I was gone!)
  • When your vegetables are super tender and the liquid has thickened into a rich sauce, it’s ready to eat. Season with salt and pepper to your liking, and feel free to sprinkle in some cayenne for an extra kick.

We spooned this over bowls of steamed white rice (long-grain basmati, specifically, because that’s what we had in the pantry), but Micah suggested it would be fantastic over grits or polenta, and I’d also bet it would be tasty with mashed potatoes or pasta. So, in the spirit of winging it (like we always seem to), serve this with your carb of choice.

And don’t forget to finish the rest of that bottle of white wine while you’re at it.

And enjoy!

We definitely did. 🙂

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