Ratatouille

July 9, 2007

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Ratatouille is summer vegetables stewed in olive oil with fresh herbs. Make it on a day when you’re not in a hurry. Like any good stew—or soup—it can’t be rushed. In traditional Provençal kitchens, each ingredient is cooked separately. The theory is that you cook away watery juices and intensify flavors before mixing everything into a succulent whole. I find, though, that the onions and bell pepper cook nicely together. Then you can add the tomatoes and herbs. You do have to cook the zucchini and eggplant separately. They both have a lot of juices you don’t want in your final stew. You can gussy it up with crushed coriander seeds or ground cumin or saffron if you like, but you don’t have to. Hope for leftovers. Like anything made with eggplant, ratatouille is better the second day. SAM

PS Despite what you see on the summer movie marquee, ratatouille is pronounced rata’ twee, NOT rat a too ee.

PS2 For a photo of of the Ratatouille Lakshmi made in South India, click here.

2 large onions, thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, pressed
Bouquet garni: 3 or 4 sprigs each of parsley, thyme, and oregano, tied with cotton thread
1 bay leaf
1 pound ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 pound eggplant, thinly sliced
1 pound small zucchini, thinly sliced
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large chef’s pan over low heat, sweat the onions and bell pepper in 2 tablespoons oil, covered, until onions are translucent, about 20 minutes. Raise the heat to medium, add the garlic and tomatoes, and sauté for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add the bouquet garni and bay leaf, cover, and simmer. Meanwhile, in another pan over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Add the zucchini, cover, and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Uncover and sauté until liquid is reduced, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the onion-tomato mixture. In the same pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add the eggplant and sauté until browned, stirring frequently, about 15 minutes. Transfer to the onion-tomato mixture. Season with salt and pepper and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes. Discard the bouquet garni and bay leaf. Serve as a stew or over rice or couscous.
Makes 6 servings.

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Steak Grilled with Bay Leaves and Garlic

July 7, 2007

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‘Got any charcoal left over from the Fourth? Fire it up! SAM

PS Stuff some of yesterday’s Potato Biscuits with the leftovers and you’ll have breakfast in the bag!

2 garlic cloves, peeled and slivered, plus 3 pressed garlic cloves, divided
4 pounds (2-inch) sirloin or porterhouse steak
1/3 cup olive oil
2 bay leaves, crumbled, plus 8 bay leaves whole, divided
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut small gashes in the steak and insert the slivered garlic. Wrap the steak in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. In a small jar, combine the pressed garlic, crumbled bay leaves, and olive oil. Cover tightly and shake well. Grill the steak 4 to 6 inches above the coals, turning once, about 15 minutes on each side. Baste frequently with the garlic mixture, from time to time scattering the remaining bay leaves on the grill. Season with salt and pepper.
Makes 6 servings.


Scalloped Potatoes with Garlic and Rosemary

June 7, 2007

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There’s nothing like a creamy potato casserole to make your troubles disappear. This one is a slight twist on an old, old French side dish, guaranteed to sooth the soul and lift the spirits. Soaking the potatoes in cold water removes starch, which allows them to soak up the cream, which makes them divinely creamy. This recipe is supposed to make two generous servings. Then, again, you might want to keep the whole thing for yourself. SAM

1 pound new white potatoes (3 to 4 medium)
1 clove garlic, pressed
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon snipped fresh rosemary leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
1/2 pint heavy cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 1-quart casserole and set aside.

Slice the potatoes 1/8 inch thick, soak for 5 minutes in cold water, rinse thoroughly, and spread out between paper towels to dry. Combine the garlic and olive oil. Layer the potatoes in the prepared casserole, seasoning each layer with the garlic mixture, rosemary, parsley, salt, and pepper. Pour the cream on top and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, or until liquid is absorbed and the potatoes are tender and browned.
Makes 2 servings.


Corn-Lima Bean Pasta

May 26, 2007

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If you’re on one of those dreary no-carb diets, don’t even bother to read this recipe. It’s carbohydrate heaven, and it’s divine! Use a good quality frozen corn and tiny baby limas, not those big, starchy things. Trust me on this one. You wouldn’t think that with corn and lima beans you’d need pasta—but you would be wrong. SAM

1 (16-ounce) package frozen sweet white corn
1 (16-ounce) package frozen tiny baby lima beans
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1/4 medium sweet onion, finely chopped (2 tablespoons)
1/3 cup black olives, pitted and halved
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
2 teaspoons dried dill weed
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
12 ounces linguine
Yogurt or sour cream for garnish

Steam the corn and lima beans according to the directions on the packages, being careful not to overcook. Drain well, set aside, and keep warm. In a large salad bowl, combine 4 tablespoons oil, the feta, onion, olives, mayonnaise, mustard, horseradish, dill, and parsley. Add the corn and limas, stirring gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Drain and dress with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Make a bed of pasta on each plate and fill with Corn-Lima Bean Salad topped with yogurt or sour cream.
Makes 6 servings.


Baba Ghanouj

May 25, 2007

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A young friend of mine told me awhile back she had never bought an eggplant because she didn’t know what to do with it. Well, here’s what you do with it. SAM

PS For an additional microwaving tip, click here.

1 large globe eggplant (1 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon water
2 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons tahini
Juice of 1 small lemon (2 tablespoons)
1/2 teaspoon toasted ground cumin, or more to taste
Sea salt to taste

Cut the eggplant in half and place cut-side down in a glass baking dish. Add the water, cover with plastic wrap leaving one corner open, and microwave on high for 8 to 9 minutes or until the skin is slightly wrinkled and begins to collapse. Microwave longer in 1- or 2-minute intervals, if necessary. Still under the plastic, cool for half an hour, then gently squeeze out any excess juice and scrap the flesh into a medium mixing bowl. Beat with a pastry fork until light. Add the garlic, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, cumin, and salt. Beat until well blended. Drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Serve with pita bread.
Makes 2 cups.


Curried Black Bean Hummus

May 24, 2007

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If you have beans, garlic, lemon, olive oil, and tahini, you have hummus. This variation calls for black beans and roasted red peppers, and your friends will eat it with a spoon. Season it to taste—as much curry as you want, more tahini, lemon, or olive oil, if you like. But, again, let the flavors meld for a few minutes before your final tasting. SAM

2(15-ounce) cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 large roasted red pepper, drained and seeded
2 medium cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 cup tahini
Juice of 1 lemon (2 tablespoons)
1/4 cup olive oil, plus additional for serving
1 teaspoon hot curry powder or to taste
Sea salt to taste

Combine the beans, pepper, garlic, tahini, lemon juice, oil, curry powder, and salt. Blend until smooth with an immersion blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade. Drizzle with additional oil and serve with flatbread or chips.
Makes 3 cups.