Regulars visitors to this blog may know that I have been forced to take a month long hiatus due to some server issues that I was facing and also because I had to fly to India to take care of some family issues. During my usual web trolling I have noticed that this seems to be a familiar pattern with other food bloggers as well – I guess everyone’s summer vacation plans and kids’ days off from school throw people off their regular activities and schedules. But what surprised me was how much I missed my own blog – after five months of posting almost four or five recipes a week, it seems like it has gotten into my system and now I suffer from intense guilt when I don’t “produce” something every few days!
Anyway, when I got back to DC after my whirlwind trip to Delhi, I found that my backyard veggie patch (which had been suffering all summer due to the drought in our part of the US) had somehow gathered all its strength and actually produced an assorted harvest! Unfortunately my teenaged kids (who were in charge of the house and the dogs while I was away) had not bothered to go pick the vegetables and so the majority of them had grown into monstrous beings that were misshapen, gargantuan and hard as rock! The yellow summer squash was hit especially hard by this syndrome and as a result I now have 15-20 foot-long crocodile skinned yellow squashes (that can only be used as Halloween decorations) and cucumbers that were as big and thick as baseball bats. I managed to rescue a few eggplants, green peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and yellow squash before they met the same fate but their meager quantities could only be used in a single recipe that incorporated all of them together. Of course, ratatouille came to mind right away – it is a dish that takes an assortment of vegetables, tastes great and is easy to execute. Mine came out really well because the vegetables and herbs that I used were really fresh and completely organic. So here is my version of a ratatouille that utilized all the vegetables rescued from my backyard.
1. One large yellow onion
2. 4-5 cloves of garlic
3. 2 zucchini squash
4. 2-3 yellow squash
5. 2-3 green bell peppers
6. 2-3 small eggplants (Italian or Japanese eggplants are better)
7. A cup full of ripe cherry or grape tomatoes of assorted colors (or any one color would do as well).
8. 2-3 springs of fresh basil
9. 8-10 sprigs of fresh thyme or lemon thyme
10. Salt to taste
11. 15-20 peppercorns of assorted colors
12. 2 tablespoons of Balsamic vinegar
13. A teaspoon of sugar
14. 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
1. Peel and slice the yellow onion.
2. In a large sauté pan, heat up the olive oil and then start cooking the sliced onions over low heat.
3. While the onions are sweating, peel and slice the garlic cloves and then add then to the sauté pan.
5. Add the sliced vegetables to the sauté pan but one by one in the following order (the harder the vegetable and the lesser its water content the longer it takes to cook) – first the eggplant , then the green bell pepper, then the zucchini and yellow squash.
6. Before putting each of the vegetables, let there be a gap of 2-3 minutes – let the previously added vegetables get covered with the olive oil and cook through a little bit. Stir the vegetables at regular intervals.
7. While the vegetables are cooking, cut the tomatoes into halves and also roll and thinly chop the basil leaves and take the thyme leaves off their hard stems.
9. At the very end add the balsamic vinegar and the teaspoon of sugar. Stir the contents of the pan thoroughly and cover it with a lid and let the ratatouille cook on low heat for 8-10 minutes (or until the vegetables are cooked and soft). Add a little bit of extra olive oil on top.
10. Serve the ratatouille as a side dish or with a couple of slices of bread as a light meal by itself.