Ratatouille Méridionnale

57 Comments

Méridionnale is the southern region of France famous for its ratatouille, classic in that it contains tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, onions, and eggplant, but unusual in that it is cooked gently in the oven, not on the stovetop. This, according to Daniel Boulud, in his cookbook, “Café Boulud Cookbook,” published in 1999.


I bought the cookbook after going to Café Boulud in New York City, not once, but twice during the same visit back in 2010. My daughter and I stayed at the Surrey Hotel, located adjacent to the restaurant. I had accompanied my daughter to New York City for a major interview, which all turned out well.

To make our first night easy I’d made a reservation at Café Boulud, and it was so perfect that went went the next day for lunch. The food, the service, the ambiance – all was truly perfection. One thing that I remember is that when you were brought the check, it came with just-out-of-the-oven Madeleines.

The cookbook is uniquely divided into four parts.
1. La Tradition – the traditional dishes of French cooking
2. La Saison – the seasonal specialties of the market
3. Le Voyage – dishes from lands far and near, and
4. Le Potager – vegetarian dishes that celebrate the bounty of the garden.

So many recipes jumped out at me when I first read the book. A roasted chicken stuffed with a Tuscan bread filling that included chicken livers and prosciutto, for example, and veal chops stuffed with fontina and porcini. But I chose this ratatouille recipe, from the “La Tradition” section.

Right now my garden is abundant with most all of the ingredients in this hearty vegetable dish, so there’s no better time than the present to make ratatouille.

Ratatouille Méridionnale

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled, split, and germ removed
1 onion, peeled, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, deveined, cut into 1” chunks
2 yellow bell peppers, as above
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 small eggplant, about 4 ounces, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
1 zucchini, scrubbed, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
1 yellow squash, scrubbed, trimmed, cut into 1” chunks
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded, cut into 1” chunks
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon thinly sliced basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. In order for the vegetables to retain their distinctive flavors, you will need either to cook them in batches or to cook them in two separate sauté pans.

Warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add 1 clove of garlic, the onion, and the chunks of red and yellow pepper. Season with salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the vegetables soften a bit but don’t take on color, about 5 minutes.

Either remove the vegetables and wipe out the pan or, while the peppers are cooking, take another sauté pan and warm the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Add the second clove of garlic, the eggplant, zucchini, and squash and cook and stir for 8 to 10 minutes, this time allowing the vegetables to color a bit.

Combine the sautéed vegetables in one large ovenproof sauté pan or baking dish and stir in the tomato paste, tomatoes, thyme, and bay leaves. Cover the pan with a circle of parchment paper, pressing the paper against the vegetables.


Put the pan in the oven and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring the ratatouille every 15 minutes or so.

The ratatouille is done when the vegetables are meltingly tender but still retain their shape. Remove the bay leaves and garlic.

Serve while it’s hot, or when it reaches room temperature. Just before serving, stir in the basil leaves and the squirt of lemon juice.

The ratatouille can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept covered in the refrigerator.

Before serving, bring it to room temperature or warm it gently in a slow oven.

I served the ratatouille with roasted chicken. Simple and delicious.

I was really surprised after all the cooking time as well as stirring that the pieces of vegetables remained intact. I have seen many a ratatouille look like mush.

So it’s for that reason alone that I will make this recipe for ratatouille again. It’s pretty, delicious, and perfect for a glut of ripe vegetables.

Scallop Tomato Gratin

48 Comments

In 2010, I accompanied my daughter to New York City for her interview at Sotheby’s. It was a mandatory part of the application process, which she obviously aced because she was soon after accepted to the London Sotheby’s master’s program.

My daughter didn’t need me with her in NYC, but because she had been feverishly finalizing her first master’s degree thesis, she hadn’t really taken the time to think about interview clothes, or get herself emotionally prepared. That’s where Moms come in handy.

Thanks to my wonderful travel agent, I made reservations at the The Surrey hotel. Her recommendations are always fabulous, and this hotel was perfect for us. It’s a boutique hotel, just 1 block off of Central Park. Still lots of honking outside throughout the night but, well, it is New York. But the hotel was lovely and had the best staff. They even had a bottle of champagne chilling in the room after my daughter’s interview.

But the wonderfulness didn’t end there. Turns out, Café Boulud is right next door to The Surrey; they even provide the room service. We went for lunch one day, and were so impressed, that we went for dinner on another night. (My daughter and I also went to Le Bernardin one night, so we didn’t suffer in the dining department. Again, that’s what Moms are for!)

Every one knows of Daniel Boulud, but this was a first for me dining at one of his many establishments. The food, wine, and the service were all top notch at Cafe Boulud. And the best part? After the meal, you’re brought warm Madeleines, along with the check, of course.

So it was because of our experience that I bought his Cafe Boulud cookbook – one for myself and one for my daughter. It was published in 1999.

downlddoad

It’s a very interesting cookbook, because it’s organized differently from the traditional sets of chapters. The book is divided into four parts:

La Tradition, the traditional dishes of French cooking
La Saison, the seasonal specialties of the market
Le Voyage, dishes from lands far and near
Le Potager, vegetarian dishes that celebrate the bounty of the garden

Within each chapter are subchapters including soups, small dishes, lunches, main courses, etc. It makes it a little more difficult to look for recipes in the normal way, but it still works. I’ve made quite a few recipes already, and have many more marked.

I chose to post about the scallop and tomato grain for its simplicity. As I’ve mentioned before, simple food can be the best food – as long as it’s made with the highest quality and freshest ingredients.

This recipe allows the bay scallops and tomatoes to shine. And as my tomatoes have begun to ripen, this is the perfect recipe to try! It’s in the Le Voyage chapter, for its Italian style. He recommends a Pinot Grigio as a pairing, and I concur!

For this recipe you need to have peeled tomatoes. The way I peel potatoes is to boil them in water for about 30 seconds. If the skins don’t split, then use a tip of a knife to pierce the skin for easy removal.

Bay Scallop and Tomato Gratin
from Café Boulud Cookbook

3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs
6 sprigs Italian parsley, leaves only, finely chopped
3 sprigs thyme, leaves only, finely chopped
3 sprigs basil, leaves only, finely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled, split, germ removed, and finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
9 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/4 pounds bay scallops
3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice

Toss together the bread crumbs, half of the parsley, the thyme, basil, and three quarters of the garlic, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.


Preheat the broiler. Butter six shallow gratin dishes (The dishes should be only about 1″ deep and about 6″ in diameter.)

Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan or skillet over high heat until it is very hot. Pat the scallops dry, then season them with salt and pepper and slip them into the pan. (Do this in batches if necessary.) Cook, turning the scallops as needed, until they’re golden on both sides, 2 minutes.

Toss in the diced tomatoes along with the remaining parsley and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more, to cook off some of the tomato juice.


Divide the scallop mixture evenly among the gratin dishes and sprinkle an equal amount of the seasoned bread crumbs over each dish. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over each gratin and slide the dishes under the broiler for 2 minutes – watch them closely – or until the tops are golden brown.

To serve: The herb-crusted scallops should be served in their gratin dishes, so place the hot dishes on heatproof dinner plates, and rush the gratins to the table.

On a side note, my daughter and I went to Bar Boulud in London, and we weren’t impressed. Maybe they had a bad night. But if you’re ever in NYC, check out Café Boulud!

verdict: As much as I’m a devotee of white pepper, I felt like it was too strong of a flavor for this scallop dish. Otherwise, the dish was fantastic!