Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Easy Spiral Ratatouille

The best part of a CSA membership is getting farm fresh produce every week. It's such a great surprise sometimes. Then there are the weeks of overload. Too many zucchini, squash and now eggplant. Something has to be done to use all this fantastic goodness. I began looking around for ideas. Some way to use all this squash. I found a Julia Child ratatouille recipe in my recipe binder. It was the perfect idea for using a good portion of our CSA box. The only problem was that a traditional ratatouille is pretty time consuming. I'm not into time consuming. Not now. Not while 6 months pregnant. As I investigated other recipes it became clear that making a ratatouille would be work. I kept putting it off thinking the next day would be better for me to get involved with making that dish. About 2 weeks ago the movie Rataouille was on TV. And it was then that I realized I could try to make the dish how Remy instructed. So I did. I combined the basic spices and general process of a traditional ratatouille but instead of using chunky vegetables I sliced them thin and spiraled them around just like the movie. That made such a difference.

The hardest part about this recipe is slicing all the veggies. If you have a mandoline this process will go quickly, if not then it will take some time to slice everything thinly. I have a beat up old mandoline I found at a garage sale years ago. It only works with sturdy vegetables, no so well with soft vegetables. Cutting eggplant and tomato ended up messy. After the first ratatouille I went out to pick up a new mandoline. I think that we'll be eating more layered vegetable dishes this summer which will require equipment that can slice both soft and sturdy vegetables. I would love one that is super fancy and has all sorts of slicer plates, but the reality of me using it that often is low. That high price is not something I could justify. I found a decent mandoline made by OXO and it is perfect for my needs. It locks the blade into place and has 4 settings. So nice and easy to use, what a difference a decent blade makes. I was pleased to make something which uses up so many vegetables at once. This is vegan so it's a great dish to serve at any gathering. It's pretty too! It makes an easy wow factor dish for any gathering.

Easy Spiral Ratatouille

Sauce:
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup finely diced onion
2-3 cloves garlic, minced(or more if you like, I use 1T)
1 cup tomato puree (or sauce)
1 bay leaf

Begin by heating the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté 3 minutes add in garlic and sauté another 2 minutes. Pour tomato puree into pan and stir making sure to loosen any onion bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Toss in the bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Allow to simmer while you slice the vegetables.

Vegetables:
1 medium zucchini sliced in 1/8-inch-thick rounds
1 small-medium eggplant sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
1 medium yellow (summer) squash sliced into 1/8-inch-thick rounds
2 large tomatoes, sliced thinly
1 large red (or orange) bell pepper, seeds and ribs removed, sliced thinly
2 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and stems discarded
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

Vinaigrette
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon dried herbs de Provence
Whisk together above ingredients and set aside.


Using a mandoline begin to slice the zucchini, eggplant, summer squash and bell pepper. Trim the ends off the vegetables first. Set each vegetable aside in its own pile. Using a very sharp knife slice the tomatoes about 1/8 inch thick or thicker. The tomatoes will not need to be as thinly sliced as they will cook down faster than the other vegetables. Spray your casserole dish (I like to use an oval pan for this as it helps with the spiral) with cooking spray. Remove the tomato sauce from heat and gently pour it into the bottom of the dish spreading the sauce evenly. Remove bay leaf. Begin to assemble the ratatouille by making stacks of the vegetables. It is best to begin with about a 4 inch stack of alternating vegetables to get the spiral started. Place your stack on the outer edge of the dish and begin to position your spiral of alternating vegetables around the dish. Continue until you have no more room for the vegetables to fit in the dish. You are likely to have a handful or two of vegetables left over. Drizzle with olive oil, to your taste, but about a ¼ cup is reasonable. Sprinkle with Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper, parsley and thyme. Cover the dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside over the vegetables. Patience is key to success while tucking the parchment paper over the vegetables. This is important in preventing the vegetables from burning but also to allow them to cook evenly. (Foil is just not the same) Place the dish on a jelly roll pan in the middle of our oven and bake 375°F for 45-55 minutes. It is done when the vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but not overly cooked. The vegetables will not be browned and the tomato sauce will be bubbling up around them. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the parchment paper. Drizzle vinaigrette over the ratatouille. Allow to rest about 10 minutes. Serve with fresh bread, couscous, polenta, quinoa, bulgur, or rice. 


Special notes: I have a gas oven which means this cooks evenly and within 45 minutes. If you have electiric then you may need a longer cooking time. The jelly roll pan is a fantastic way to make certain your oven does not get any sauce from spilling out and will keep you from accidentally spilling on yourself.

Keith loved this and it goes great with some grilled meat. I like it for breakfast with some chevre and a poached egg. Leah found it made an excellent sandwich on French bread. To give it an Italian flair add some basil and oregano and toss with pasta. I think there are many ways to use it and it is even better the second day.

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