Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Recommended Recipes: The Perfect Ratatouille


I have posted Betty Crocker’s basic recipe for ratatouille before on my blog, but ratatouille is something that I usually play by ear rather than by recipe, always keeping in mind that the basic ingredients are eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, bell pepper, and onion. Last weekend I made ratatouille that my wife declared to be perfect, so I am sharing last weekend’s version.
Vegetables for ratatouille
by Floortje (Getty Images)




We will begin with Betty Crocker’s recipe and go from there:

RATATOUILLE
(From the 1983 edition of Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, ninth edition)

Ingredients
  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1½ pounds)
  • 2 small zucchini (about ½ pound)
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about ½ cup) 
  • 4 medium tomatoes, each cut into fourths
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
Cook and stir all ingredients until heated through. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisp-tender, about 10 minutes. 
YIELD: 6 TO 8 SERVINGS.


Now here is how I augmented it:

First, I omitted the garlic, since my wife is allergic to garlic, you may choose to keep it in. Second, I added 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning. Third, for the tomatoes, instead of 4 medium tomatoes, I used 8 Roma tomatoes. For one thing, I find Roma tomatoes to be much better tasting in the winter than other tomatoes, and for another, I figure Italian tomatoes are a better fit for an Italian dish.

For the vegetable oil, I used olive oil. I added a splash of sherry, about ¼ cup (I don’t use cooking sherry because that has salt added, I just keep a bottle of sherry on the kitchen counter to add flavor to a number of dishes).

Another slight variation was to add 1 yellow neck squash just for the added color (and nutritionists will tell you that the greater the variety of colors in your vegetables, the greater the variety of nutrients).

I usually cook my ratatouille longer than the Betty Crocker recipe recommends because I like is a little softer than “crisp-tender.” The thing that I did differently this time was that instead of using a big stew pot on top of the stove, I decided to use a slow cooker crock pot.  My reasoning was that this way I could just leave it to cook on its own without having to constantly hover over the stove stirring the pot (and I usually still end up with some burning on the bottom of the pot, no matter how diligent I am with the stirring).

The next big thing was in the presentation of the dish. I chose to serve the ratatouille over bow-tie pasta and to top it with grated Gruyère cheese. This is an unbeatable combination.

So here is a recap of my Perfect Ratatouille:

Ingredients
  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1½ pounds)
  • 2 small zucchini (about ½ pound)
  • 1 small yellow neck squash
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about ½ cup) 
  • 4 medium tomatoes, each cut into fourths
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ¼ cup sherry
  • 1 box of bow-tie pasta
  • a small block of Gruyère cheese
Directions:

Rinse all vegetables before preparation. Peel the eggplant, slice and cut into 1-inch cubes. Slice the zucchini and the yellow neck squash. Remove the seeds from the bell pepper and chop the pepper (there is no need to chop it into small pieces -- another thing that nutritionists tell us is that when you cut a vegetable, you lose vitamins and nutrients, so larger chunks is better that finely chopped). Peel the outer skin from the onion and chop (again, I don’t bother to finely chop the onion, I cut it into wedges about ½ to 1 inch in width). 

Place vegetables in a large bowl, add ¼ cup of olive oil, salt and pepper, and Italian seasoning. Stir all ingredients together and pour into a 4 quart crock-pot slow cooker (it will probably fill the crock-pot to the rim, but it will cook down some). Add the sherry, cover and cook on the high setting for about four hours (if you use cooking sherry, omit the salt above since cooking sherry has salt added).

Toward the end of the cook time for the ratatouille, prepare the bow-tie pasta as directed on the package. Drain the pasta but do not rinse. Grate the Gruyère cheese.
Serve the ratatouille over the pasta and top with grated cheese.

Photo by Diana Miller (Getty Images)

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