Ratatouille Méridionnale

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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.

Polynesian Salad

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Ever since I first spotted this recipe on the blog A Beautiful Bite, I’ve been dying to make it. Melanie actually calls her salad “Crunchy Polynesian Salad.” The salad isn’t terribly sophisticated, but it sounded fun and different. I love her unique, crunchy additions – toasted ramen noodles and macadamia nuts!

I made this salad for a July 4th get-together. Because it was for a significant family-friend gathering, I made a very large salad and a voluminous amount of dressing. But I’ve pared it all back to a more normal amount for this post. Or check out Melanie’s original recipe here, which serves eight people.
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Polynesian Salad

8 ounces shredded iceberg lettuce
8 ounces broccoli slaw
8 ounces julienned carrots
8 ounces shredded purple cabbage
1 – 16 ounce can pineapple slices in juice
Coconut oil or Pam
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 small purple onion, diced
Fresh cilantro
Toasted ramen noodles
Macadamia nut pieces, toasted

Place the first four ingredients in a large bowl lined with paper towels to insure that the vegetables are dry. I don’t like excessive moisture in salads because it dilutes the dressing.
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Store the bowl in the refrigerator overnight or at least for a few hours.
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Drain the pineapple slices over a bowl and save the juice for the dressing. Dry the slices on paper towels.


Spray a griddle with coconut oil, and grill the pineapple slices until grill marks are obvious. Continue with all of the pineapple you’re using, then cut each slice into quarters.

If you need to save on time, you can cut up the red bell peppers, but I would place them in a sealable bag or bowl also lined with paper towels. I never cut up onions ahead of time.

Toast the macadamia nuts in a large skillet, and let them cool completely.


There’s some preparation to this salad, but trust me, it’s all worth it!

Polynesian Dressing

1/2 cup pineapple juice
Juice of 2 limes
2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
4 teaspoons sesame seed oil
1″ piece ginger, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.


Then add an equal amount of olive oil or peanut oil.

On the day you are serving the salad, bring all of the different salad elements to room temperature, including the dressing.

Remove the paper towels, and toss the salad ingredients with the pineapple and red bell pepper.
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Chop the onion and add it to the salad along with the cilantro. Right before serving, add the dressing and toss well.

If you’re serving the salad buffet style, mix in the ramen noodles and nuts at the very last minute so they stay crunchy. This is what I used because I couldn’t find ramen noodles. You might be shocked but I’ve never bought them before.
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This salad is truly a fabulous summer salad, and great for entertaining.
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You can change up the ingredients of the main salad. It can be all cabbage, or more lettuces, whatever you like.
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If you can’t find macadamia nuts, you could use peanuts or almonds, toasted, of course.


It would also be a really good salad with grilled chicken or salmon!!!
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note: I would have used a fresh pineapple if I could have found one. But the pineapple that’s canned with juice and not heavy syrup worked out well.

Frittata

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Not too many people hear these words from one their little kids…

“Mom, can you please not make any more frittatas?”

Seriously. I guess I got a little carried away for a while making them. I was very creative with frittatas, but still, I guess at least one of my daughters wasn’t fooled. I also remember thinking how funny her request was at the same time. I mean, it’s like a kid asking the mom to quit serving foie gras or oysters on the half shell. Which is exactly why I remember her question to me so vividly.

And yet, I must have overdone it. And I think I know why.

I’d always made omelets and the like for my kiddos because I was passionate about preparing breakfast for them, even though it involved getting up earlier than most other moms. It was worth it to me.

But then I was introduced to this cookbook – The Villa Table, by Lorenza de Medici – and I was smitten.

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Blog-wise, I’ve made stuffed zucchini based on Ms. Medici’s recipe, but it’s so full of wonderful recipes, that if you didn’t love Tuscan food already, this book will put you over the top.

In any case, in the book Ms. Medici has a recipe for a frittata, to which she adds leftover spaghetti. Seriously! And I mean, why not? You can really put just about anything in an omelet or a frittata, so why not leftovers like a pasta dish! I had so much respect for her for including such a mundane, yet perfectly practical recipe, or idea, if you will, that I think I got a little crazy then, throwing just about everything left over from the previous night’s dinner into the next morning frittatas for my girls. That is, until I was asked to stop.

When I wrote up my omelet post a while back, I realized I hadn’t made a frittata in years, thanks to that daughter. And I was really kicking myself. When I have some folks visiting, it’s the perfect thing to make in the morning, but I had completely blocked it out!

You see, an omelet is best made one at a time as a single omelet for one person. But the best thing about a frittata? A large one can be easily made and it can be sliced up to serve many!

There’s nothing mysterious to a frittata. It contains the same ingredients as an omelet, primarily beaten eggs, of course, cheese, and often accessory ingredients as well. These can include something as simple as asparagus, or as involved as leftover pasta bolognese, like I mentioned above.

A frittata is essentially an open-faced omelet – made in the same way as an omelet, except the last step is to place the cheese-topped omelet in the oven for some browning. You do have to take some care with the frittata, however, just like an omelet, to not overcook it. Otherwise, it would be a big rubbery awful mess.

So I’m going to offer up my version of a basic cheese frittata. What else you do to yours is completely up to you. Trust me, once you start adding your leftover pastas or stews or vegetables to yours, you’re going to be making them quite often, just like I used to!

Basic Frittata

6 eggs
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons butter
1 red bell pepper, diced
6 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 purple onion, diced
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan, or to taste

Place the eggs in a medium bowl and whisk them well with the cream and salt. My eggs were close to room temperature, but this isn’t necessary. Set aside.
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In the skillet in which you will be making your frittata, which much be able to withstand broiler temperatures, heat up the butter over medium heat. Add the red bell pepper, green onion, and purple onion.
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Sauté the vegetables for about 5 minutes, or until soft.

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At this point, turn on your broiler, and have your shelf on the top of your oven, directly underneath the broiler.

Pour the whisked eggs into the skillet over the vegetables.
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Make sure the hear is at its lowest point. Just like with making an omelet, this process will take some time. Place a lid on the skillet.

After about 4-5 minutes, you’ll see that the eggs are starting to cook.
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I added some leftover goat cheese that I happened to discover. Now, this isn’t in the recipe, but I wanted to show how many different things you can do with a frittata. Before you add the cheese, make sure that the frittata is about 75% cooked; there will still be liquid in the skillet at this point.
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Then I covered the goat cheese with the generous amount of Parmesan. I was in a cheesy mood that day.
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Place the skillet under the broiler. After a minute or two it will look like this, and there will be no liquid left in the skillet.
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I cut this frittata into four wedges, which seems like quite generous servings, but there are only 6 eggs in the whole frittata. You can remove the frittata easily from the skillet if you wish, but I just served them from the skillet.
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Frittatas are fabulous for both breakfast and brunch.
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I’ve also seen in another Lorenza de Medici cookbook that sometimes a wedge of frittata is served between two slices of bread for lunch!
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Personally I will take my frittata without bread.

But now you get an idea of how many different things can be used in a frittata. I could have sautéed any vegetables and aromatics. Spinach and mushrooms can be used as well, but I would prepare both of them much earlier, and drain them of excess liquid. No one wants a watery frittata.

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And I could have used 8-10 eggs in the same skillet for a much thicker frittata, which of course would take a little more cooking time. It’s just what you want in the end. But the key is to cook the eggs slowly, then let them finish off in the oven while the broiler is taking care of melting and browning the cheese. It’s a lovely egg dish!