Oven-roasted Ratatouille

August 31, 2019 at 10:22 pm (B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Cook's Illustrated, Italian, Summer recipes, Vegetable dishes, Yearly menu plan)

Before I got pregnant with Alma I hated eggplant. So I never tried making ratatouille. But since my pregnancy I’ve learned to like eggplant. And I got eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, and bell peppers from my CSA this week. It was time to try making ratatouille.

I chose the “Walkaway Ratatouille” recipe from Cook’s Illustrated to try.

Ingredients:

  • ⅓ cup olive oil + 1 Tablespoon
  • 2 large onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 8 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 ½ teaspoons herbes de Provence
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 ½ pounds eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 pounds plum tomatoes, peeled, cored, and chopped coarse (or one 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes that have been drained and chopped coarse)
  • 2 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Instructions:

  1. Crush and peel your garlic and chop your onion.
  2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees F. Heat ⅓ cup oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent and starting to soften, about 10 minutes. While the onions are cooking, cut up the eggplant.
  3. Add herbes de Provence, pepper flakes, and bay leaf and cook, stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Stir in eggplant and tomatoes. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and stir to combine. Transfer pot to oven and cook, uncovered, until vegetables are very tender and spotty brown, 40 to 45 minutes. While you’re waiting, cut up your zucchini and bell peppers.
  4. Remove pot from oven and, using potato masher or heavy wooden spoon, smash and stir eggplant mixture until broken down to sauce-like consistency. Stir in zucchini, bell peppers, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and return to oven. Cook, uncovered, until zucchini and bell peppers are just tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
  5. Remove pot from oven, cover, and let stand until zucchini is translucent and easily pierced with tip of paring knife, 10 to 15 minutes. Using wooden spoon, scrape any browned bits from sides of pot and stir back into ratatouille. Discard bay leaf. Stir in 1 tablespoon basil, parsley, and vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to large platter, drizzle with remaining 1 tablespoon oil, sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon basil, and serve.

My notes:

I mostly followed the recipe except I used “only” 5 Tbs. olive oil total, halved the salt (since I was using fine salt not kosher), was a little bit short on eggplant, and didn’t have fresh parsley so used some extra basil. Also, I forgot to add the sherry vinegar at the end, which was particularly sad since we all made a special trip to France this morning to get it! (I can’t find sherry vinegar in my German grocery stores.). Also, I added a bit more herbes de provence then the recipe called for. I didn’t use my fresh CSA tomatoes (seemed a waste). Instead I used two German jars of whole tomatoes. I drained them and crushed them right into the pot. I also shorted all the cooking times a bit because I started cooking dinner too late and was in a rush.

Derek and I liked it. Alma ate a little of the ratatouille, but she found it a bit too spicy (even from just a 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes!).

I thought that the flavors were balanced with a nice mix of roasted and fresh flavors.  And the combination of texture was also nice, with the mashed eggplant and onions and tomatoes contrasting with the less cooked zucchini and bell peppers. I particularly liked that the bell peppers were almost still crisp, but our zucchini was a tad on the raw side. I think next time I’d cut the zucchini a bit smaller and the bell peppers a bit bigger. Since I halved the salt it was a little bit undersalted, but I served with an oversalted polenta (not sure how that happened), so it balanced out. I really liked the combination with the polenta, but Derek said he thought it would be better on pasta. When I looked online people recommended eating it on bread, or as a side with meat or fish. Derek added parmesan to his.

The recipe did take a while to make, but it felt pretty simple. And it only got one pot dirty, which is a big plus in my book! Most of the work is just roughly chopping some vegetables, and you can chop a lot of the veggies while the earlier veggies are cooking.

The recipe made a lot, but I actually wish it had made a bit more! I think next time I make this I will try using a little more of all the vegetables, but cut the oil down to 1/4 cup. And I won’t peel the eggplant. That was just depressing seeing the beautiful purple eggplants turn into wan white spongy fruits, sad and embarrassed in their undressed state. Finally, I will make it on a cooler day! Turning the oven on really heated up the kitchen.

I’m also kind of curious to compare this recipe to Alice Waters’s ratatouille.

If you don’t have any herbes de provence, you can make your own using equal parts of rosemary, thyme, and marjoram and 1/3 as much fennel seeds. If you want a floral blend, also add 1/3 as much dried lavender. So for this recipe, for example, you could use 1/2 tsp. of each of the herbs and 1/6 tsp. each of fennel (and lavender if you want).

Update October 2019: About six weeks after posting this I made a different roasted ratatouille recipe from a new cookbook I just got: River Cottage Veg: 200 Inspired Vegetable Recipes by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Instead of roasting the veggies in a dutch oven, you do it on a cookie sheet. The regular version has you make a tomato sauce on the stovetop, but the variant I tried has you omit the tomato sauce and instead roast a bunch of tomatoes on a separate tray from the other veggies and then mix them all together at the end. Both Derek and I really liked the recipe. It was extremely rich, with tons of olive oil, but therefore also very satisfying. And it didn’t seem greasy. Derek thought he liked it more than the usual ratatouille because of the lack of tomato sauce. Alma wouldn’t eat it, as usual with ratatouille. I can’t really compare this recipe to the Cook’s Illustrated recipe, since they were six weeks apart. But my best guess is that this one was simpler and tastier? But I did use all the oil, whereas I halved the CI oil, so maybe it’s not a fair comparison.

 

Permalink 1 Comment

Protein-powder free chocolate vegan protein smoothie

August 19, 2019 at 9:26 pm (breakfast, C (1 star, edible)) ()

I am on the hunt for new smoothie recipes that everyone in my family likes. Ideally I am looking for a recipe that is filling, healthy, and easy to make. I found this chocolate shake recipe on the minimalist baker website, and decided to make it for breakfast this morning since Derek is out of town. He’s usually not into the chocolate smoothies, but Alma likes them. The author says the smoothie (she calls it a shake) is creamy, chocolaty, filling, and delicious. Sounded good! I followed the recipe carefully except I added a bit too much peanut butter and used 4 very small dates. I used 1.5 cups of almond milk and a bit more than 1.5 Tbsp. of cocoa powder.

The report. First of all, although it has no protein-powder in it it tasted to me like it did! The smoothie was powdery and dull tasting. (Maybe it would have been less powdery if I had a better blender? I have a good blender but it’s no Vitamix.) The taste wasn’t awful but it wasn’t great. Alma tasted it and agreed it needed something. She suggested lemon juice. I thought yogurt. We both seemed to think it needed some acid. We ended up adding some orange juice, which definitely helped. Then we added a big pinch of salt and a big spoonful of vanilla. Better, but it was still too one-note for me. And I didn’t like that there was no fruit or vegetables in it other than banana.

We ended up eating it as a smoothie bowl with raspberries and granola. That worked pretty well. The raspberries added some more sourness, which it needed, and the granola and raspberries both added some texture, which helped distract from the powdery texture. In the end it was fine, but I’m not sure I’d make it again.

The recipe says it serves 1.  What? Alma and I both had seconds and we still had a ton leftover. I think the author says it serves 1 so that she could claim it has 23g of protein in it. Sneaky devil. I would say it serves 3, at least if you add OJ and eat it with raspberries and some granola on top, like we did.

I’m curious what made it powdery. I’m guessing it’s the oats and/or the cocoa powder. I’m curious to try a smoothie with hemp seeds and chia seeds and no oats or cocoa powder, and see if it ends up powdery.

Permalink Leave a Comment

Zucchini scallion chickpea-flour pancakes (with dal)

August 18, 2019 at 10:31 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Derek's faves, Monthly menu plan, Peter Berley, Summer recipes, Website / blog)

Below I give my current version of Dreena Burton’s zucchini scallion chickpea-flour pancakes, as well as some notes on Peter Berley’s curried chickpea pancakes with scallions and cilantro. Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 2 Comments

Best Green Smoothie for Beginners

August 11, 2019 at 10:19 pm (breakfast, C (1 star, edible), Website / blog) ()

I make smoothies pretty often, but almost never green smoothies. The few times I’ve tried to improvise one Alma wouldn’t drink it. So I went looking for a kid-friendly green smoothie recipe. I found this Beginner’s Luck Green Smoothie recipe on the simplegreensmoothies.com website. It claims it tastes like a “tropical treat”. I happened to have all the ingredients, and Alma likes mango a lot, so I gave it a try.

I thought it was fine. I tasted a lot of pineapple. It wasn’t a very complex flavor, but it was pleasant enough. Alma drank a little of it, but wasn’t too into it. Derek said it was fine but not exciting. He thought it needed peanut butter, but I didn’t think that would really go with the pineapple. I then tried to jazz it up by adding some roasted sunflower seeds that I had lying around. That made it just taste like roasted sunflowers seeds.

The hunt continues.

 

Permalink Leave a Comment

Instant Pot Mushroom Risotto

August 4, 2019 at 9:14 pm (Alma's faves, B plus (3 stars, like a lot), Fall recipes, Grains, Instant Pot, Italian, Jill Nussinow, Monthly menu plan, Spring recipes, Winter recipes) ()

Making risotto on the stovetop is a pain, but in the instant pot it’s truly hands off. I’ve been making risotto much more often since I got my Instant Pot. This recipe is our favorite so far. I like to serve this risotto for dinner with lemon juice, parmesan, lots of basil, and green beans. I eat the green beans mixed into my risotto. I like the textural contrast they provide, as well as the pop of color. They also balance out the meal by providing a little more fiber, protein, and vitamins. I think it makes about 6 servings. Read the rest of this entry »

Permalink 4 Comments