Ratatouille – Eat Your Vegetables!

Ratatouille is French for “stew made of all the vegetables that you have in your refrigerator” (I think, but don’t quote me). Traditionally, it’s made with eggplants, onions, tomatoes, garlic, zucchini, bell peppers, carrots and spices like bay, basil, oregano and marjoram. With that many ingredients, its more than open to improvising, especially when you have a refrigerator full of veggies that you’d like to use up.


I found myself last week staring at a few eggplants, onions and zucchini threatening to go bad in my crisper drawer. I also had a bunch of pre-cooked whole grains (barley, wheat berries and rice) that were looking for an interesting complement. Bam! Ratatouille seemed like the perfect solution to my dinner quandry.

This dish is very easy, and very forgiving to make. Start by heating a bit of oil and sauteeing your onion. When it has started to soften and become translucent, add cubed eggplant and cook them together in your sautee pan until the eggplant just begins to darken. At this point, add the zucchini, cook a bit more, and then add your tomatoes and seasonings. Continue cooking until the entire mixture is soft and not too liquidy.

If you add other vegetables, like carrots, just put them in the pan according to how long they’ll take to soften up (a good rule of thumb is to start with the hardest vegetable — so carrots would probably go in before eggplant). You can definitely make a big batch of this as well — it’ll keep for a few days, and goes great with pasta, chicken, rice or grains or alone as a side dish.

Originally posted May 17th, 2010

Ratatouille

Ingredients

  • 1 large or 2 small/medium eggplants
  • 1 medium onion
  • 2 zucchinis
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 can diced tomatoes or 1-2 fresh tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp parsley (fresh if possible)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Sautee the onions in olive oil until they begin to soften and become translucent. Add in the eggplant and cook until it shrinks a bit and starts to brown. Add in zucchini and cook for another 2 minutes. Add in tomatoes, herbs and salt to taste. Cook until entire mixture is soft. Serve with pasta, chicken, grains, bread or as a side dish.

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Tangy Horchata

As summer rolls around, I’ll be on the lookout for particularly interesting cold drinks to make and keep in my fridge. I stumbled on Rick Bayless’ recipe (via the Homesick Texan blog) for horchata recently, and since I’m a sucker for the vanilla-almond-rice creaminess of the drink, I gave it a try. What really sets this recipe apart from other horchata I’ve had is the refreshing kick that the lime adds. It’s not at all overpowering, but adds an unexpected and interesting citrus note to the aftertaste.

Rice_almonds

Left to right: powdered rice, almond skins, blanched almonds

I was excited when I read the recipe, since I had all the ingredients on hand. The first step was blanching the almonds, since I had a raw bag that I bought from Costco that still had the skin on. This wasn’t terribly difficult — submerse the almonds in boiling water for 30 seconds, let cool slightly, and squeeze to “pop” the almond outof its skin — but was extremely time consuming. My “sous chef” told me it was as bad as when I enlisted her to scrape Oreos for a cheescake crust. Next time I’d be better off running to the store to get the preblanched kind. I then ground up some arborio rice in the blender until it was about the consistency of flour. I combined water, almonds, rice, lime and cinnamon, and let it sit about 8 hours.

Almonds

To this mixture, I added the vanilla and sugar water and blended the until smooth. I poured the whole thing into a colander lined with a flour sack, and waited. The flow was extremely slow, so I grabbed the flour sack and squeezed hard. This was faster, but still very, very slow, since I think the rice flour plugged up the pores of the towel. After about 10 minutes of squeezing, I had a bowl of tasty horchata.

Delicious, but tons of effort. Next time I’m going to try a whole grain rice, toast it, and blend it less. The hope is that the whole grain will create a courser rice grind that will let the liquid more easily pass the flour sack. Alternatively, I might use a wider mesh, like cheesecloth. Toasting will add a nutty flavor that I think will go well with the almonds.

Originally posted May 14th, 2010

Tangy Horchata

(adapted from Rick Bayless and The Homesick Texan blog)

Ingredients:
2/3 cup of uncooked rice
1 1/4 cups of blanched almonds
1 teaspoon of lime juice
Zest from one lime
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup of sugar or brown sugar, depending on how dark you want the drink

Directions:
In a blender or spice grinder, grind the rice finely (but stop before it turns into flour). Place ground rice, almonds, lime juice, lime zest and the cinnamon stick in a pot and cover with two cups of warm water. Let stand overnight or for eight hours.

After the mixture has soaked, take out the cinnamon stick and pour contents into a blender with two cups of water and pulse a few times to combine. Do not overblend. Take a mesh colander that has been double lined with cheesecloth, and over a bowl or pitcher slowly pour the mixture, wringing the cheesecloth to get every last drop out. You should have a milky, smooth liquid at this point. If there are still rice and almond bits floating around, strain it again.

In a pot, heat up one cup of sugar and one cup of water on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. Stir this sugar water into the horchata, along with the vanilla. Add one more cup of water and serve over ice or chilled.

 

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