Posts Tagged zucchini

Not Your Average Ratatouille

ratatouille-image_1There are about a million recipes (might be a slight exaggeration, frankly) for this dish online and, in my younger years, I’m sure that I used one of them. Since then, I’ve played with it and have changed it.

I added pancetta, the Italian version of bacon, but if you prefer meatless, then it’s fine to leave it out. It will not ruin the dish. This is normally a side dish, but I’ve actually served it as a main course over rice.

It can be served sprinkled with Reggiano Parmesan. It can also be served with a couple of dollops of Mascarpone cheese. The sweetness of the cheese goes nicely with the spicy complex of the dish. Give it a try.

Ingredients

5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

8 oz chopped pancetta

1/4 cup minced garlic

1 medium Vidalia onion, rough chopped

1 medium zucchini, rough chopped

1 medium yellow (summer) squash, rough chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored and rough chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded, cored and rough chopped

1 medium eggplant, trimmed and cut into cubes*

1 tbsp dried thyme

1 tsp dried oregano

1 can diced tomatoes with juice (14.5 oz can)

1/4 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Salt & pepper to taste

Reggiano parmesan or Mascarpone Cheese for serving

Directions

Heat up the evoo in a deep skillet and add the pancetta. Cook over medium heat until the pancetta crisps, moving it around the pan so that it cooks evenly. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Add the minced garlic to the oil, and cook until slightly brown and the oil is infused. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

Next, add the onions, peppers, zucchini and summer squash. Cook for about 6 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the thyme and oregano and mix well. Cook for about another 2 minutes.

Add the chicken stock, wine, tomatoes and eggplant. Simmer uncovered for abut 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is a bit reduced. Add the pancetta, stir, and simmer for about another minute or two. Do a spice check here. Give it a taste. The pancetta is salty, so you may not need salt. The choice is yours. Add pepper, however, for sure.

Remove from the heat and serve with either the parmesan or Mascarpone.

*I “trim” my eggplant, which means cutting off the edges. I never peel my eggplant. But the choice is yours. It works either way.

 

 

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Summer Veggie Pasta Sauce

raw-zucchiniI spent my childhood eating traditional tomato-based pasta sauce. When I finally moved out of my family home and started to enjoy cooking, I decided I wanted to explore a bigger variety of sauces for my pasta. This sauce is especially nice in the summer, using zucchini, pancetta, and peas. Combine these delicious vegetables with butter, dry white wine and parmesan cheese, and it’s a real feast.

 

Ingredients

1 lb. cooked pasta

4 garlic cloves, chopped

4 oz. pancetta

1 cup zucchini, chopped

1 cup frozen sweet peas, thawed

1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. olive oil

5 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 tsp. crushed red pepper

1 tbsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. dried basil

Salt & pepper to taste

1/2 cup dry white wine (Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio)

Juice of one lemon

1/2 cup Parmesan cheese plus more for serving (I like to use the grated in the sauce and the shaved for serving)

Directions

The first order of business is to bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta, cook until al denté (most of the time this runs from 7-10 minutes after the rolling boil has started). Then drain and set aside. While this process is going on, you can work on your sauce.

Add the chopped pancetta to a large sauté pan and cook over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes. Then add the chopped zucchini, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently until it begins to soften. Add the thawed peas at the very end of this process and sauté for about 3 additional minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In the same pan, heat the 1/4 cup olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper, and sauté for 1-2 minutes until it turns golden and becomes fragrant. Then add the white wine, lemon juice, butter, thyme and basil. Cook for another two minutes or until the butter is completely melted.

Return the vegetables to the pan with the sauce and sauté for an additional minute or two. Then, add the pasta and toss with the Parmesan cheese to heat through.

This is a good time to give it a taste test for saltiness (the pancetta is salted and the cheese will also add a bit of saltiness to the dish). Add salt and pepper to taste.

You are ready to enjoy!

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Ratatouille

ratatouille-image_1Before we begin, let’s establish that we’re not talking about the Disney movie here. There are a million variations on this particular theme. Make mine a million and one. This French concoction can be a side dish, or it can be a main dish (with rice pilaf), or it can be an appetizer. Pick your poison. Everything that is used in this recipe is roughly chopped…not too big, and not too small. Leave the skin on everything except the red (or Bermuda) onion. I use cilantro here, but you can also use parsley if you’d like. My problem is that I’m not a great lover of parsley, with the exception of specific recipes. I think cilantro (often referred to as Mexican parsley) is a much more interesting taste.

Another basic staple in my house is Balsamic Drizzle or, as some call it, Balsamic Cream. I like to drizzle some on mine but this is entirely optional.

This is a project for sure. Everything cooks in stages initially, and it comes out best if cooked slowly. Cooking it for less time will leave you bigger and more distinct pieces of vegetables. Cooking it for up to 1.5 hours will result in a more blended silky stew. The beauty of this is that it can be served warm or room temperature. And leftovers? Nothing like it. Roll it up in a piece of lavash bread or throw it in a pita pocket, melt some Italian Fontina on it, and have yourself a great lunch. It can also be frozen.

Ingredients

2-3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

8 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped

2 large red (or Bermuda) onion, roughly chopped

1 red bell pepper, roughly chopped

1 yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped

2 cups sliced portobello mushrooms

6 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped

2 medium-large eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes

3 zucchini, sliced and cut in half

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1/4 cup fresh basil, cut in strips

10 springs thyme, leaves removed and stems discarded

2 bay leaves

Kosher salt and fresh-ground black pepper

2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Balsamic Drizzle (for serving)

1/4 cup dry white wine (for deglazing the pan)

Directions

Prior to beginning this process, a word about deglazing the Dutch oven. During the cooking process a brown glaze will form on the bottom of the pan. Keep a 1/4 cup of dry white wine on hand for deglazing purposes. You do not want this brown glaze to burn and ruin the flavor of the dish. Add wine a little at a time as necessary and scrape off the bottom of the pan. Add the deglazing liquid to the bowl with the cooked vegetables.

The first thing you have to do is cut the vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Eggplant traditionally retains a lot of water. Cut the eggplant first and place the pieces in a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let it sit while you prepare the rest of the vegetables. Prior to this becoming a blended dish, the vegetables will be cooked in stages. Therefore, you want to keep the raw vegetables in separate bowls.

Place 2 tsp of olive oil in a large Dutch oven (at least 5-1/2 quart) and warm over medium-high heat. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt, and sauté until they are just beginning to turn brown. This will take about 10 minutes. Then, add the peppers and mushrooms and cook for about another 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and put this into a large, clean bowl.

Add another 2 tsp of oil to the Dutch oven and toss in the zucchini. Add another pinch of salt. Cook the zucchini until it begins to brown. This should again be about 5-7 minutes. Remove the zucchini and add it to the other vegetables.

Rinse the eggplant under cold water, and squeeze the pieces to remove as much moisture as possible. Add 2 more teaspoons of olive oil to the pan along with the eggplant. Cook until the eggplant becomes translucent, about 10 minutes. Remove the eggplant and add it to the other vegetables.

Finally, add some more olive oil to the pan and sauté the garlic until it becomes slightly brown and fragrant. Then, add the tomatoes, thyme, cilantro, red pepper flakes and bay leaves. Allow the tomato juice to bubble, and deglaze the pan as it does.

Add all of the cooked vegetables back into the Dutch oven. Stir to mix, and reduce the heat to low. Taste and adjust salt level, and add black pepper to taste. You can cook this for another 30 minutes or up to an hour and a half. Shorter cooking time will result in larger more distinct pieces of vegetables. Longer cooking times will result in a very nice melded stew. The choice is up to you.

Before taking the Ratatouille off the stove, remove the bay leaves and stir in the basil. Serve in bowls, adding a dash of olive oil to the top. You can also offer a drizzle of Balsamic cream as well as some finely grated Parmesan or Romano cheese.

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