CSA summer veggies…kinda like in the movies

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.

Confit Bayildi after cooking with extra sauce drizzled on top. Best to use a cast iron pan with vented lid. I was preparing three smaller portions so had to improvise.

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.

Ratatouille soup…mmm mmm good.

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:

For more, visit my blog, vegetatingwithleslie.org, “Like” me on FaceBook/Vegetating with Leslie or follow me on Twitter, @vegwithleslie.

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