Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Summer Ratatouille

When my mom came to town the Ferry Plaza Farmer's Market was our first stop after the airport. After putting close to five dollars in quarters into the meter, we were on our way, along with throngs of other people. Ten o'clock in the morning on a lovely Saturday in June is actually not the perfect time to descend on the market. Unless you have The List.

The List was my plan for combating the hundreds of sample gobbling, chit-chatting, stroller pushing crowds of people wandering aimlessly, dazed by the first look at the season's first perfect cherries. With a list you have focus. With a list you also have dinner. Ratatouille seemed the perfect choice. It allowed us to buy all sorts of beautiful produce and produce a meal with minimal effort. We found three different kinds of summer squash, grey zucchini, and italian heirloom tomatoes that were far too fine for cooking down but too good to pass on (the charm of the old Italian fellow selling them to us didn't hurt either). We found fresh parsley and peppers and even an eggplant. The only things that would come from my pantry were the olive oil, salt, pepper and the goat cheese from the fridge.

The next night we chopped everything up and then went to sit in the garden with a glass of rose while it all cooked. It was the first day of summer, the longest day of the year. We enjoyed our feast as the sun went down and the views (of the plate and of the sky) were amazing.

The recipe I used is from one of my secret weapon cookbooks, Savor the Memories by Marguerite Marceau Henderson. Everything I make from this cookbook is so so good. The spine is broken and the pages are a little messy but I love it.

I put our ratatouille on top of big slices of toasted walnut bread and sprinkled everything with fresh goat cheese. It was a light supper but perfect since we'd had a large lunch, complete with two desserts.

Good produce, good wine, and good conversation made for a perfect Sunday meal.

1 bunch fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, slivered
1 tbl. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Vegetable layer
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium eggplant cut into one inch cubes
2 yellow squash, diced into one inch cubes
2 zucchini, diced into one inch cubes
1 red bell pepper, diced into one inch cubes
1 yellow pepper, diced into one inch cubes
3 large ripe tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
8 ounce log of goat cheese or 1 cup of grated parmesan cheese.

In a small bowl combine parsley, red onion, garlic, kosher salt, pepper and olive oil.
In a medium skillet, heat oil. Saute eggplant until soft, about 2 minutes, stirring often. Transfer eggplant and oil from pan to decorative 4 quart baking dish. Layer vegetables in order given, with a little of the dressing mixture in between each layer. Finish with tomatoes on top. Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove foil and top with basil and cheese. Bake, uncovered for an additional five minutes to melt cheese.
Serves 8, at least.

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