Yesterday was a big day for me. Here are some of the exciting things that I did (in no particular order).
1. I cooked an enormous pot of butternut squash stew (I'll tell you more about that later).
2. I parted my hair on the wrong side, on purpose (long story short - I think my hairline might be receding a teensy bit on the right side).
3. I started day 1 of my participation in NaNoWrMo (National Novel Writing Month).
4. I cleaned the apartment for several hours to avoid my new writing responsabilities.
5. I snacked on of the delicious honey cornmeal fresh-cranberry quick bread muffins that I baked over the weekend (I will tell you more about that later too. Suffice to say that if you think that the title is a mouthful just wait until you try one of the muffins!)
But that was yesterday, and this is today. And today is a very big day for you because I am going to share one of the best new recipes I've tried in quite a while. It's from Food 52's Genius Recipe series, which features lots of great recipes that for some reason or another stand out from the rest of the pack.
Now, this recipe is not really a hard sell. It's by Alice Water's for one. And it's ratatouille (which is just naturally likable for it's sing song name alone). The clincher, however, lies in the technique that sets this recipe apart and raises it to Genius Status. It requires neither superhuman skill or the use of expensive gadgets. It is actually simpler than most. Instead of cooking each vegetable separately, this recipe uses a trick my grandma has bragged about many times, in which the vegetables are added to the pot at intervals according to their relative cooking times. Oh, and it tastes fantastic. Savory and rich without being heavy, meaty without having any meat...
One of the best things about this recipes, in my eyes, other than the fact that it is relatively managable and doesn't break the bank, is the fact that once you've made it there are so many different ways that you can enjoy it. This means that if you make a big enough batch, you can enjoy your leftovers is a myriad of ways, therefore avoiding the tedium often associated with repeated eatings. Out of our first batch we enjoyed ratatouille four ways: over rice, in buckwheat crepes, tossed with pasta, and stuffed into home-made calzones. If I could have made it stretch any further I would have had some over polenta too. I think that that would be very, very good. (I already have it penciled in for next Monday.) Also, I used rosemary, which I had on hand, instead of expensive limp store-bought basil. It worked well.
Adapted from Food 52's adaptation of Alice Water's recipe
2-3 small eggplants (chopped into 1/2 inch cubes)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onion, or 1 large (chopped)
4-6 garlic cloves (chopped roughly)
1/2 buch of basil (tied into a bouquet) -or- 1 sprig of rosemary
small pinch of dried chile flakes
2 red bell peppers (chopped into 1/2 inch pieces)
3-4 medium zucchini or summe squash (chopped into 1/2 inch cubes)
3 medium tomatoes (chopped), -or- 1 can diced tomatoes
salt to taste
First chop the eggplant and toss the chopped cubes with a teaspoon of salt. Set the salted pieces in a colander to drain for 20 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, chop up the onions, garlic, bell peppers and squash.
When the eggplant is done draining, pat it dry. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy bottomed pot. Cook the eggplant, stirring frequently, until golden. If the eggplant sticks to the pan you can add a little more oil. Remove the eggplant from the pan and set it aside.
In the same pot, add the onions with a pinch of salt and cook for 7-10 minutes, depending on how much oil was left from the eggplant you may need to add a little more olive oil. When the onions are soft and translucent, add the garlic, basil -or- rosemary, dried chili flakes.
Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the peppers. Let those cook for another 5 minutes or so, and add the summer squash. After the summer squash had completed its 5 minutes in the mix, add the tomatoes. After 10 minutes, add the eggplants back into the pot. Give the whole thing a good stir, and cook for 15 minutes more, or until all of the vegetables are soft. Remove the basil -or- rosemary, and season to taste with salt.
Eat away! But not too much, because you are going to want leftovers.
Ps. My boyfriend came home just as I finished making this, and was really excited because he told me that he had smelled something delicious wafting from outside of our apartment building and then realized that it was coming from our apartment. Which is just another reason, among the many others, that you should make this.