Winter vegetable stew

18th January, 2010 - Posted by admin - Comments Off

Ratatouille, a hearty vegetable stew.

At the end of the day all chefs go home to their own dinner. Even when not working, they still want to eat well and usually something with minimal effort and fairly healthy.

Ratatouille fits the above criteria with the advantage that it can customized with whatever is in the crisper drawer. Originally from France, ratatouille is a traditional southern country stew that goes well with red wine.

There are about as many ratatouille recipes as there are chefs. If you’re hungry and in a rush, toss all the ingredients in a pot with a little oil and chicken or vegetable stock and heat until everything is the desired consistency. If everyone is feeling lazy and can wait a bit, layer everything into a casserole dish and bake.

Tomatoes and eggplant are two ingredients that considered essential to a good ratatouille. Canned tomatoes are perfectly acceptable – especially this time of year. Tomatoes are generally canned very shortly after being picked and have nearly all the same nutritional value of their fresh counterparts. The fresh tomatoes available in the grocery store right now have the approximate texture and flavor of a golf ball. Do not eat these, keep walking and avoid eye contact.

Eggplant is an often misunderstood vegetable. A member of the nightshade family, it’s a good source of folic acid and potassium. It also has a lovely spongy texture when fresh that soaks up whatever flavors it comes in contact with. As it cooks, it releases liquid, contributing to the broth. Despite the bitter flavor when raw, it mellows with cooking and lends a rich, complex flavor to these kinds of dishes. Give it a shot and see what you think.

Herbes de provence is often called for as a seasoning, but fresh herbs work just as well. Fresh parsley has a very intense, fresh green flavor that brings out the other vegetables. Add it at the end of the cooking process so it doesn’t get washed out. If dried herbs are being used, they go in at the beginning so the moisture from the ingredients can draw out the flavors.

Ratatouille is wonderful hot and fresh from the pot. It’s also delicious cold or at room temperature with a slice of crusty bread. I like to mix it with brown rice for a filling vegetarian dinner.

Ratatouille
Serves 4

6 garlic cloves, minced
5 medium button or brown mushrooms, sliced
1 medium zucchini, sliced
5 sprigs of parsley, minced
4 sprigs of basil, chiffonade
1 medium onion, diced
1 can diced tomatoes, drained (or 2 tomatoes peeled, seeded, and diced)
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 medium bell pepper, diced
1 large eggplant, peeled and cubed
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and saute about one minute.

2. Add the diced onion and continue to saute until they turn translucent, about 4 more minutes.

3. When the onions are translucent, add the tomato paste. Stir to coat the onion and garlic. When the tomato paste begins to carmalize on the bottom of the pan, add the stock and deglaze.

4. Add the diced eggplant, zucchini, bell peppers, and mushrooms. Stir to combine thoroughly and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring every couple minutes to promote even heating.

5. When the eggplant is mushy but the other vegetables are still tender, add the tomatoes. Allow the ingredients to simmer until the tomatoes are heated through.

6. Stir in the chopped parsley and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

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Posted on: January 18, 2010

Filed under: Dinner, Soup, Vegetarian

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