24 August 2012

Cookout: Ratatouille

The end of August?!  The END of AUGUST?!  The temps are dropping…the peak of harvest season is upon us…and I’m cramming every last fun thing into this summer that I can.  August goals included a cookout.  Cook out we did!  Although the dish I made for this cookout (besides mozza stuffed burgers) was an oven creation.  Behold, ratatouille!
Before I get into the details, let’s give some major credit for this dish to Deb of smitten kitchen.  Her blog is fantastic, the photos are killer, and the recipes constantly impress.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that her photos are what make me drool over her culinary creations.  Lesson learned.  Step it up a notch on the photos and the presentation.
It’s worth noting that much of the beauty of this dish comes from the way the veggies are sliced.  I don’t think it would be quite as jaw-dropping if I had the thickness that comes from slicing with a knife.  2nd lesson:  the mandoline was a good investment.
Okay, I think we’re ready for the nitty gritty.  Deb uses pureed tomatoes, but I had a whole counter full of home-grown produce, so I wasn’t about to reach for a can.  I roasted these tomatoes in the oven (that’s right, the honeymoon with roasted vegetables is far from over), then let them stew and reduce on the stove for a bit with the onion and garlic.  A quick spin in the blender left them in a chunky puree.
Pour them down as a base for the rest of the veggies.
Using a mandoline (or a knife – you don’t need special tools to make great food) slice up some veggies.  I had a zucchini, some summer squash, and a variety of peppers (most sweet mini-bells and bananas).  I didn’t even cut myself on the mandoline this time!
Be fancy.  Arrange the veggies over the tomato in a circular pattern.
Continue until the entire tomato base is covered.  Hopefully you don’t run into any spacial issues.
S&P in liberal amounts over this dish.  A drizzle of olive oil doesn’t hurt either.
Cover in parchment paper cut to the size of your dish (hmm, this might be better as step number 1…).
Bake at 375* for at least 50 minutes.  I took the parchment paper off for the last ten minutes...oh, and I sprinkled the leftover cheese from the stuffed burgers on the veggies as well.
Serve warm, to good friends, especially outdoors on a cool evening.  If you feed them well, they’ll be friends for life.  (I like the chaos in this photo.  It's real.  It's life, happening.)
Sit back and relax.  Play a little croquet.  Take advantage of the last few days of summer.
Ratatouille (loosely based on this recipe)

  • 2-3 cups of tomatoes
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 2 small summer squash
  • 1/2 an onion (roughly 3/4 cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 5 small peppers (you could use one or two large ones)
  • S&P
  • Extra virgin olive oil
1.  Slice the tomatoes in half.  Lay them face down on a cookie sheet.  Broil for 5-7 minutes until lightly blackened.
2.  Stew tomatoes on the stove for 15 minutes to slightly reduce.  Add the onion and garlic.
3.  Let the tomatoes cool slightly.  Blend the tomatoes until lightly pureed.
4.  Preheat the oven to 375*.  Slice the zucchini, squash and peppers on a mandoline (or slice thinly with a knife).
5.  Pour the tomato puree into a 9x13 pan.  Arrange the zucchini, squash and peppers in a circular pattern around the pan.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.  (sprinkle with cheese if you want)
6.  Cover with parchment paper cut to fit the dish.
7.  Bake for 50-60 minutes.  Remove the parchment paper ten minutes before taking the dish out of the oven.
Note:  this dish does NOT give two-year-olds the strength to pull people around on kayaks, hard as they might try.
It was a lovely night, with lovely people and a lovely sunset.
And some lovely croquet...with a water trap!

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