July 15, 2013 by Sara Kreidler
Toby has been painting and otherwise home-improving like a fiend lately. Just in the last month or so, he has painted all three of the bathrooms, all of the hallways, the dining room and kitchen, and a few nights ago he tackled a massive painting project in the playroom (see the new, fun yellow-striped walls in the photo above). I’m pretty amazed by how the house is coming along. In the first few weeks after we moved in, I wondered if I’d made a huge mistake; I loved the new house, but it didn’t feel like “ours” yet, and the process of personalizing it seemed overwhelming. But now with lots of new paint (among other updates) it really feels like our home.
Because Toby’s been coming home from his office and immediately going to work on painting, I’ve been trying to come up with meals that are (1) flexible, meaning that they can be prepared in the afternoon and hang out until we’re ready to eat whenever he is at a good stopping point, and (2) use up the veggies from the CSA box. Earlier this week I made giant steak salads (which only made a small dent in the lettuce and cucumbers we got this week) using leftover grilled steak, various pickled things from our larder, and other odds and ends that were hanging around the kitchen. It took minutes to throw together, and it was delicious. Like I said a few weeks ago, having lots of goodies on hand for big salads is really the way to go for the first 6-8 weeks of the CSA, when the salad greens are plentiful.
Friday night, I set out to use up the giant, bat sized zucchini and eggplant that we received this week, as well as the bundle of basil that was starting to wilt. I also had a sizeable bowl of grape and cherry tomatoes (some from the farmer’s market and some from our garden) that needed to be used up. Ratatouille seemed like a good way to use all of those things up. Although there is a lot of chopping work, this recipe is actually pretty easy to pull off, uses up large amounts of produce and results in a filling and flexible meal — in fact, if you make it ahead of time and let it chill out in the fridge until you’re ready to reheat it and serve, it gives the flavors extra time to marry. I think we’ll be returning to this recipe over and over this summer, especially when we are overrun with tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash and peppers in a few weeks.
RatatouilleAdapted from Food 52’s adaptation of Alice Waters’ Ratatouille
- 1 large eggplant, diced
- 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more to taste
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 small bunch of basil, tied into a bouquet with kitchen twine
- 6 basil leaves, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
- 2 red bell peppers, diced
- 2-3 summer squash, (zucchini, yellow squash, or a mix), diced
- 1 dry quart small tomatoes (grape, cherry, etc), diced
- 2 cups cous cous
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 small log of chevre, crumbled
- When dicing your veggies, try to make all of your veggies about the same size. The original recipe calls for a 1/2 inch dice on everything, but my veggies were probably closer to an inch dice; you don’t need to be precise, but try to make everything approximately the same size so that the veggies will cook uniformly.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss the diced eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt, transfer to a colander and place the colander over the bowl and let rest for about 20 minutes (during which time you can dice the rest of the veggies). After 20 minutes, rinse the eggplant under cold running water, then spread the eggplant out on a clean, dry kitchen towel and pat dry with a second clean towel. This step will help to draw out some of the liquid, and bitterness, from the eggplant so don’t skip it.
- In a large dutch oven, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil over medium flame. Add eggplant and cook, stirring often, until golden. The eggplant tends to soak up the oil, so if you find it is sticking to the bottom of the pot because there’s not enough oil, just add more in small amounts as needed. When the eggplant is nicely browned, transfer it from the pot to a bowl and set aside.
- Add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the pot, add the onions and a good pinch of salt and cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft.
- Add the garlic, basil bouquet, and chile flakes and cook for a few minutes stirring often, until the garlic is fragrant and begins to soften.
- Add the bell peppers and cook for a few minutes, stirring often.
- Add the summer squash and cook for a few minutes, stirring often.
- Add the tomatoes and cook for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
- Add the eggplant to the pot and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
- Remove and discard the basil bouquet. Taste, and add more salt if needed. Add the chopped basil and another tablespoon or so of olive oil, stir well and simmer for a few minutes. At this point you can serve the ratatouille, or allow it to cool and then refrigerate until ready to eat, at which point you can just reheat it on the stove (and add a little water, maybe 2-4 tablespoons, if it seems to thick or dry when it warms up).
- Pour the uncooked cous cous into a pot or a heat-safe bowl with a lid. In another pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Pour the boiling water into the pot/bowl with the cous cous, add a good pinch of salt and the butter, give it a quick stir and then cover with the lid and allow to sit for a few minutes, until the cous cous has absorbed the water. Fluff the cooked cous cous with a fork.
- To serve, spoon cous cous into a bowl, spoon ratatouille overtop of the cous cous, and top with a spoonful of crumbled chevre.