The abundance of eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes means that now is the time of year when our Food Justice Warriors all start making City Fresh Ratatouille. (Photo courtesy City Fresh shareholder, Christina)
City Fresh Ratatouille
1 Onion, sliced
4 Cloves of garlic sliced
1 Green zucchini, cubed
1 Yellow squash, cubed
1 Eggplant, cubed
2 Peppers (bell or hot or a combination), chopped
3-4 Tomatoes, peeled and chopped
lavender (just a bit for the taste of Provence)
2 TBSP butter (optional)
grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
Heat the oven to 350°.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Put in the onions and the garlic. Saute until the onions become clear. Add in the zucs (both colors) and the eggplant, cook until the veggies become soft and start to caramelize on the bottom. Don't stir too much. Add in the tomatoes and the spices of your choice. Turn off the heat. Dump the whole thing in an over safe dish. Melt the butter in a small saute pan. Add enough breadcrumbs to absorb the butter. Toast the bread crumbs until golden brown. Sprinkle over the veggies in the dish. Sprinkle with some Parmesan cheese. Bake for about 20 to 30 minutes until the cheese is browned and toasty and the juice is bubbling on the sides. Serve in bowls with crusty French bread.
Another sure-fire cheesy way to deal with lots of veggies at once is to make pizza. Using my good friend Federica's recipes-which-are-not-really-recipes, we made both the sauce and the dough from scratch at home for a slow Sunday meal. First, we made the dough.
I called Federica for instructions and was greeted with lots of talk of "I don't know" or "I'm not sure what I do" and metric units of kitchen measurement (since she's from Rome), but eventually we worked out this approximate set of guidelines.
Start with 2 cups warm water in a bowl. Add a teaspoon of dry activated yeast and a half a handful (or less) of salt. Mix with a fork and let sit for a few minutes (let's say five). Begin to add your flour. You can use bread flour, but I used unbleached all purpose flour. First I added 2 cups and began mixing with a wooden spoon. Then I added 2 more cups and continued with the spoon. By the 5th cup, I had to start in with my hands. Finally, a 6th cup of flour. The dough should be really sticky. Don't knead it until it begins to harden - keep it soft. Just get everything mixed in nicely. Sprinkle the outside of your ball with flour, or line your bowl with a bit of olive oil, cover with plastic wrap, and keep in a warm place for at least 3 hours. Then you can split it into pieces to make pies. If cooking on a pan, coat the pan in butter or oil before spreading your dough around.
While your dough rises, you can make the sauce. Chop
as many tomatoes as you want - several cups worth - at least five cups, let's say (see? not really a recipe). Pour a teaspoon or so of olive oil into a pot and heat on medium-low heat. Add a few cloves of crushed garlic (at least 2). If using peppers or onions, you can add those now too. Then add your washed and chopped tomatoes (skins and seeds and all). Bring to a simmer and keep there for a really long time - hours probably - until the water boils down. Add seasonings of your choice (oregano, thyme, basil) and salt to taste. Using an immersion blender, you can get everything mixed really nicely, or you can pour in a blender to get all the skins chopped up, or you can do this in a slow cooker for even longer (overnight is good) and all that stuff will disappear on its own. This is pretty much why I have an immersion blender.
Chop veggies into matchstick sizes (or other desired size) for pizzas. Spread the dough, add a wee bit of sauce, add your veggies. The oven should be preheated to as hot as it goes without broiling and add cheese for the last half.
Wouldn't you know it, our power went out while our sauce was cooking. It was a brown out, so we had one outlet working enough to blend our sauce, but then no means of turning on our oven. No problem! We just fired up the grill! We got it nice and hot, then added the pizza and closed the lid. You can cook the dough right on the rack, if so desired, but we had a pizza pan with holes that worked nicely. A regular pan will work too. To make sure our veggies cooked properly, we added a rack beneath the pan for part of the cooking process as well. Even over coals instead of gas, these pizzas turned out great. This gave our little family the confidence that we could still eat well if stranded without modern amenities!
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