Published in Bob’s Fresh and Local Farm Newsletter 9/6/2017.
Remember the Pixar movie, Ratatouille? My grandson showed it to me a couple of years ago as part of his educate grandma project. I loved it! This week I thought it might be fun to try out their special version of ratatouille, called “Confit Bayildi,” created by Chef Thomas Keller.
The difference between Chef Keller’s recipe and the ratatouille I usually make is mostly about technique and presentation. Ratatouille is a savory veggie stew, and it’s a must at the peak of the growing season since it uses everything: tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, garlic, summer squash, zucchini, eggplant, basil and/or rosemary. This special version, though, includes arranging the veggies for cooking and serving in concentric circles on top of a rich sauce, making a beautiful, colorful dish.
ChefSteps has a Youtube video (https://youtu.be/iCMGPRiDXQg) that demonstrates the technique, which is great to know not just for Confit Bayildi but for other wonderful dishes like a crustless creamy apple tart. First select, wash and cut up your veggies, trying to choose veggies approximately the same circumference: zucchini, summer squash, plum or smallish tomatoes, eggplant. In the video, the chef peeled and cut the tomatoes by hand into thin, round slices, then used a mandolin for the rest. I cut them all by hand and didn’t peel the tomatoes since I know ours are organic, and I like eating the peel. Any parts of these veggies you don’t use should go into your blender along with lots of garlic, a cut up onion or two and a cut up red bell pepper or two. Add some extra virgin olive oil, salt and rosemary or basil, and blend until you have a smooth, thick sauce. Check the seasoning, making certain it is strong enough to carry the veggies. I like adding a little crushed red pepper as well.
Spread the sauce at the bottom of a cast iron pan or other heavy dish, and arrange the cut up veggies rhythmically in concentric circles on top of the sauce: zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, tomato, then repeat. When the dish is filled, drizzle additional olive oil over the top, and sprinkle with salt. Cover with parchment with a steam hole so the veggies don’t stew, and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. When finished, drizzle a little more extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with fresh chopped herbs — and I squeezed a few drops of lemon juice over the top as well, which always seems to me to brighten the flavor. Finally, I drizzled remaining sauce over the top.
I had some extra cut up veggies after I made this, so I made ratatouille soup, easy peasy. Just put lots of garlic and minced onion into a soup pot with extra virgin olive oil, and saute briefly. Add tomatoes and a little water, and simmer for a few moments. Add all the other cut up veggies and water to barely cover. I usually start with about 1 TB of salt to a gallon of soup and 1/2 tsp. hot paprika. I add chopped fresh herbs like parsley, basil or rosemary after the soup finishes cooking and I turn off the heat. Taste and reseason to your taste. Less or no water would, of course, give you the traditional ratatouille. Enjoy!
And a few memories of this week on the farm:
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