So here is how this works, sometimes I am inspired to write about things and share them with you, sometimes I am just not feeling it, so I don’t write anything and other times I am terribly inspired about all kinds of things, but there are just not enough hours in the day to do my real work, my play work, my play play and take the time to write about all the things I have been doing or thinking about. This is one of those times. So, being extra clever I try to write some extra stuff to have “in the bank” for when life gets too hectic and I can assure you that the bank is full of half-fleshed out ideas, but there is nothing that feels right this week. I really want to tell you about the things I learned down on the bayou last week, the politics of auto repair and what I learned when I went to the mountaintop, but that will have to wait for a little while. So what do you get, besides random iPhone pictures and rambling?
Instead of writing deep and wonderful or witty, mildly entertaining anecdotes, I will share with you a great recipe submitted by my friend, Phillip P., for Ratatouille with a basil crust. For those, who have troubled with this formidable and mildly-French looking word, it is pronounced roughly rat-uh-too-ee. Just for drill, that encyclopedia of all things vaguely plausible wikipedia has this to say about this venerable dish:
Ratatouille is usually served as a side dish, but also may be served as a meal on its own (accompanied by rice or bread). Tomatoes are a key ingredient, with garlic, onions, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, marjoram and basil, or bay leaf and thyme, or a mix of green herbs like herbes de Provence. There is much debate on how to make a traditional ratatouille. One method is to simply saute all of the vegetables together. Others, including Julia Child, insist on a layering approach, where the eggplant and the courgettes are sauteed separately, while the tomatoes, onion, garlic and bell peppers are made into a sauce. The ratatouille is then layered in a casserole – eggplant, courgettes, tomato/pepper mixture – then baked in an oven.
Phillip first brought this to a potluck dinner at the TOM last year and we all just raved over it. Although it looks daunting at first, it is actually pretty simple to prepare and it gives you a great opportunity to practice your knife skills or to use that awesome mandoline you just had to purchase from Pampered Chef, but have no idea how to use. Laura and I adapted it a little and added some grilled sliced andouille sausage to the recipe and it was great, but the base recipe sure is hard to beat.
Ratatouille Pie with Basil Crust (6 servings)
1 ½ c. plus 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons vegetable shortening
1 egg yolk (retain white for use in the ratatouille part)
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
2-3 Tablespoons Water
2-3 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 large eggplant (about 1 ½ pounds)
¾ teaspoon salt
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 small zucchini (about 1 pound) sliced
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 large onion thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves minced
1 medium green bell pepper thinly sliced
1 medium red bell pepper thinly sliced
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch wedges
¼ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon hot Hungarian paprika
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 cups grated Italian Fontina cheese (about 6 ounces)
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Make the crust: In a medium bowl, combine 1½ cups of flour with the sugar and salt. Cut in the vegetable shortening until the mixture resembles course crumbs. Lightly beat the egg yolk with the vinegar, water and basil. Mix the liquid into the flour mixture just until a soft dough forms. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon flour, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
Prepare the ratatouille: Halve the eggplant lengthwise and cut crosswise into ¼ inch thick slices. Put the eggplant into a colander, sprinkle with ½ teaspoon of the salt and let stand for 30 minutes. Pat the eggplant with damp paper towels to dry and remove the salt.
In a large skillet, heat 2 Tablespoons of the oil over moderately high heat. Add the eggplant slices in batches and sauté, tossing, until golden, about 2½ minutes per side. Repeat with the remaining eggplant, adding up to 5 Tablespoons more oil as needed. Drain the eggplant on paper towels, then transfer to a bowel.
Add the remaining 1 Tablespoon of the oil to the skillet, add the zucchini and cook over high heat, tossing constantly until golden, 2 to 3 minutes, reduce the heat to moderate and cook until soft, about 3 minutes longer. Drain and add to the eggplant in the bowl.
Wipe the skillet clean. Add the butter and melt over moderate heat. Add the onion and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the garlic and green and red bell peppers, cover and cook until the peppers are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, black pepper and paprika. Increase the heat to high and cook until all the liquid has evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the eggplant, zucchini, parsley and basil and mix well.
Preheat the oven to 425. Spoon 1/3 of the ratatouille into a buttered 10-inch glass or ceramic quiche dish.
Sprinkle with 1/3 each of the fontina and parmesan cheese. Continue layering until al the ingredients are used, ending with the cheeses.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured board and lay it over the dish. Trim and flute the edges. Cut a slash in the center of the pie. Brush with the beaten egg white and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.
So there you go, trust me, this one is awesome and super impressive for a dinner party or potluck. Make it and carry it to your next family reunion and watch the pretentious cousins trip over themselves to compliment you, unless, of course, like me, you are the pretentious cousin, in which case, this is the sort of thing you should be bringing in the first place. So get in the kitchen and take the time to make this great meal and show the world that Ratatouille is way more than a bunch of animated rodents in Paris.