Ratatouille Tonight…Not the Movie!

Summer time is the best time to cook with garden produce; makes the most sense, that’s when they are at their peak of quality and variety. I love to make this dish every year in the late summer particularly when I have most of the vegetables growing in my garden.  Ratatouille is a French dish made of eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, onions, peppers and lots of olive oil and basil. To me it tastes more Italian with all those veggies and the olive oil and basil. It’s a great side dish with grilled meats or fish and I love it inside an omelet or alongside a slice of quiche.  And yes, I know there was a kids movie out in 2007 by the same name.  Disney even came out with their own recipe for ratatouille!

Lots of veggie chopping for this delicious dish and then you should stir it carefully as the mixture cooks in a big pan. I like to make it in a wok or paella dish. I have a Teflon paella dish that I use these days; holds a lot and things don’t stick to it.

Tips: The amounts are somewhat fluid; I don’t really measure the veggies; just use an approximate amount. Be sure to cook the eggplant until it is mostly done before proceeding to the next step or your dish will be less than stellar.  You can use red, orange, yellow or green bell peppers and yellow summer squash works just as good as zucchini. I used a huge pale green bell pepper in my photographed version. Just makes sure all your vegetables are fresh and best quality.

Ratatouille  by Angela, makes about six servings

Ingredients:

2 medium onions

4 tbsp. olive oil divided

1 large eggplant – cut into rounds and then across into ½ in slices (don’t peel)

1 med zucchini  – cut into 1/3 inch rounds and halved

2 large tomatoes, diced

2 garlic cloves – minced

1 large red or green bell pepper- cut into long slices, can half them

1-2 Tbsp. tomato paste

1 Tbsp. dried basil

1 tsp. sea salt (to taste)

Directions:

Put 3 tbsp. of the oil in a large frying pan; 16 inch or wok works well. Add the eggplant slices and toss the slices around to evenly soak up the oil.  Fry turning occasionally; try to get them at least half done and then add the zucchini half moons.  Keep frying until both are just about done.  Turn out into a big bowl.  Add the rest of the olive oil and when it is hot; add the onion bits. Cook about 5-6 min until softening.  Add garlic and cook a minute.  Add the sliced pepper and cook 5-6 minutes until softening.  Add the diced tomato.  Stir well.  Cook about 5-6 minutes and add the tomato paste, stir well, add back the zuke/eggplants and  until mixture looks mostly done; maybe 10 min.  Add the basil and salt and cook another couple of minutes. spicy tomato jam 006  Great cold the next day; aging in the fridge melds the flavors together.

Sweet Corn Hack

Sweet corn season is here.  In many places really good sweet corn can be had, like farms markets, road side stands and even Wegmans!  I don’t know about you but when I only am making one or two ears it seems silly to fire up a tall pot of water.  I do steam the corn which only takes an inch or so of hot water but still…too much to do.

Two summers ago, on a hot day, I realized there was a quick and easy way to make an ear…or two without that big hot pan of water and steam. I just take a large frying pan, put a quarter inch of water in it, sprinkle of salt and let it heat until bubbling.  I then lay in my ear or two which I have husked and removed all the silk.  Then the pan is topped with a lid or an empty pizza pan if your frying pan is too big for your lids.  Cook it the usual time; depends on how fresh the corn is.  The fresher your corn ears, the less cooking time you need.  The steam in the pan will cook it really fast.  Maybe 6 to 8 minutes.

 

And the bonus is that if it runs out of water your ear will get a bit of carmelization going which only adds to the flavor.  In fact I hope it gets browned a bit; sometimes I rotate the ear to brown it on another side.  Remove with tongs when your corn reaches the done stage you like.  Sometimes I take a quick bite to test for eating readiness!

Serve your ear(s) with salt and butter and enjoy fresh corn without heating the kitchen up much.  Oh and I have some lovely prong thingies my sister gave me for pushing into the corn so my fingers stay cool as I munch corn.  Great idea. Get them! Mine are plain like these; they do make corny looking versions but I prefer these simple looking ones.corn prongs

Sweet Corn on the Cob Without A Hot Kitchen

Sweet corn season is here.  In many places really good sweet corn can be had, like farms markets, road side stands and even Wegmans!  You can get it at Musikfest at a price; $4 for an ear. aw shucks corn

It is delicious but really? That’s a lot of moola for an ear that costs 40 cents at my local grocery store. Big mark up going on! So make it at home. I don’t know about you but when I only am making one or two ears it seems silly to fire up a tall pot of water.  I do steam the corn which only takes an inch or so of hot water but still…too much to do.

Last summer, on a hot day, I realized there was a quick and easy way to make an ear…or two without that big hot pan of water and steam. I just take a large frying pan, put a quarter inch of water in it, sprinkle of salt and let it heat until bubbling.  I then lay in my ear or two (I think you could squeeze in three) which I have husked and removed all the silk.  Then the pan is topped with a lid or a metal pizza pan if your frying pan is too big for your lids.  Cook it the usual time; depends on how fresh the corn is.  The fresher your corn ears, the less cooking time you need.  The steam in the pan will cook it really fast.  Maybe 6 to 8 minutes.

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And the bonus is that if it runs out of water your ear will get a bit of carmelization going which only adds to the flavor.  In fact I hope it gets browned a bit; sometimes I rotate the ear to brown it on another side.  Remove with tongs when your corn reaches the done stage you like.  Sometimes I take a quick bite to test for eating readiness!

corn 004

Carmelization…Yummy!

Serve your ear(s) with salt and butter and enjoy fresh corn without heating the kitchen up much.

Originally published June 2015: I thought some of you needed a gentle reminder to try this; gonna be hot in the next seven days here in PA!

Sweet Corn Shortcut

Sweet corn season is almost here.  In some places really good sweet corn can be had already!  I don’t know about you but when I only am making one or two ears it seems silly to fire up a tall pot of water.  I do steam the corn which only takes an inch or so of hot water but still…too much to do.

Last summer, on a hot day, I realized there was a quick and easy way to make an ear…or two without that big hot pan of water and steam. I just take a large frying pan, put a quarter inch of water in it, sprinkle of salt and let it heat until bubbling.  I then lay in my ear or two which I have husked and removed all the silk.  Then the pan is topped with a lid or an empty pizza pan if your frying pan is too big for your lids.  Cook it the usual time; depends on how fresh the corn is.  The fresher your corn ears, the less cooking time you need.  The steam in the pan will cook it really fast.  Maybe 6 to 8 minutes.

corn 002

Hard to see; black pan. But the corn is in a small pool of bubbling hot water.

corn 004

And the bonus is that if it runs out of water your ear will get a bit of carmelization going which only adds to the flavor.  In fact I hope it gets browned a bit; sometimes I rotate the ear to brown it on another side.  Remove with tongs when your corn reaches the done stage you like.  Sometimes I take a quick bite to test for eating readiness!

Serve your ear(s) with salt and butter and enjoy fresh corn without heating the kitchen up much.

Spinach Asparagus Garlic Saute

Don’t you just love finding new ways to make fresh, tasty veggie dishes?  I had some fresh spinach but didn’t want a salad.  I have enjoyed something like this in a Boston steak house, cost like $9 for a serving!  And there were a few spears of uncooked asparagus I wanted to use up. What to do….what to do? Wok it!

This is such a simple recipe but a great spring side dish.  I had it with some homemade chicken salad.  Good side dish if you are avoiding carbs like bread or pasta.  I have a few friends who are into low carbing so they should be thrilled.

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Spinach and Asparagus Sauté

Serves 1; double or triple it as needed

Ingredients

1 big handful fresh spinach, rinsed

4 stalks of asparagus, snapped into 1 ½ inch lengths

1 garlic clove

1 tbsp. EVOL

Directions:

Steam asparagus in minimal amount of water, like 3 minutes in a small sauce pan.  Meanwhile, I used my mini wok pan to make the rest of it.  Heat pan, add olive oil.  Let heat, throw in spinach, stir once, add minced garlic clove, and stir a few times until it wilts. Add the asparagus which is barely done.  Stir for a minute and serve.

I made it another day with some kale blossom stems (unopened flowers) and that was yummy too.  You could add broccolini stems or broccoli rabe if you have some. If your asparagus is skinny you can add it with the spinach and only use one pan. This quick side dish is full of vitamins and great to enjoy with any sort of protein.

Yam It Up…Fries That Is!

Yams are underrated: some families only eat them one day a year with their turkey later this month.  Yet they are full of phyto-nutrients, vitamins and minerals to keep you healthy. Naturally sweet so there is no need to pour dozens of marshmallows and brown sugar over them.  And they are not just for Thanksgiving.

yams

I like to make baked yam wedge fries.  Spicy ones are my favorite.  They go great with oven fried chicken or homemade gf chicken nuggets.  Yam wedges are totally yummy plus easy to throw together.  Great vegetables don’t have to be full of calories, super fancy or difficult to make.  Carefully prepared fresh vegetables are a great side to any balanced meal.  And yams are naturally gluten free; hurrah!

Don’t pick gigantic yams, small to medium size are easier to cut into decent lengths for these fries.  I like the ones that are deep orange inside; great flavor every time I use them.

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Yam Fries

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

3-4 yams, wash, dry and then cut up into long fairly narrow wedges; 6 to 10 per yam depending on size and place them on a cookie sheet with edges, mound them up in the center

1-2 tbsp. EVOL: Pour on top the pile.

Sprinkle with

1 tsp. paprika

¼ tsp. garlic powder

1 tsp. coarse sea salt

A sprinkle of hot chipotle chili powder

A few grinds of fresh black pepper.

Use two forks to stir around the wedges so they get coated with oil and spices. Spread them out over the baking sheet.  If you don’t want them too spicy leave out the chili powder.  Use whatever spices you like if my combination doesn’t thrill your taste buds.

Bake for 10 minutes, turnover with a pancake turner.  Cook 7 to 10 more minutes until a fork pierces a wedge easily. The thicker you make them the longer they will take to get tender.  Watch them closely for the last couple of minutes so they don’t burn.  I find that they cook faster in my pizza oven; my main oven is a tad slower so they need from 10 to 14 minutes after you turn them but that does depend on the thickness you cut them to.

It’s that simple people! My family loves them and so will yours.  Just add more yams and spices to make a bigger batch of fries.