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Friday, September 3, 2010

Ra-ta-touille!


I just got this month's issue of Vegetarian Times in the mail. The cover features autumn produce. Not so fast,my friends.



Although I love the fall, its food, and everything it brings with it, I am not there yet. I live in Florida, and I am still in the thick of summer. I am not ready to let go of my summer tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, and bountiful fresh herbs.

And you can't make me.

This week's trip to the market yielded a plump, deep purple eggplant, over-sized zucchini, a large sunburst squash, and a huge bunch of fresh basil. I decided to make something that would showcase the natural flavors of the veggies, and something that is decidedly summery. So THERE, Veg Times!

Ratatouille is a traditional French dish made from tomatoes, zucchini, squash, eggplant, onion, garlic, and herbs. There are many ways to make it and I chose to use my grill because 1). Grilling=summer, 2). I like the flavor, 3). One less pan. Here we go!

Grilled Ratatouille
Serves 2-4

Ingredients
1 large, or 2 small zucchini
2 yellow squash
1/2 large italian eggplant
1 red onion
3 firm medium tomatoes
olive oil
sea salt & fresh ground pepper
handful fresh basil, chiffonade
1/2 handful fresh italian parsley
1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette

Instructions
Slice the zucchini & squash crosswise, on the bias, 1/4 inch thick. "On the bias" simply means to cut the vegetable at an angle. If you cut it at a high enough angle, the size of the slices will be larger than if you cut the vegetable straight. Cut the eggplant into 1/2 inch rounds.


Slice the onion in half from end to end. Slice the haves one more time, from end to end, keeping the ends intact. This will help keep the onion together on the grill. Remove skin. Cut tomatoes in 3/4 inch slices.

In a large baking dish, toss all vegetables, in batches if necessary, in olive oil, salt & pepper. This step is important, because this dish is minimally seasoned. Make sure to season each and every piece well.


Place vegetables on the grill, covered, for 5-6 minutes. Remove tomoatoes. Cook remaining vegetables for 2-3 more minutes. All vegetables should be cooked through and will hopefully pick up some charring as well. Remove vegetables. Taste a couple for seasoning. Add more salt if needed.

Stack vegetables, alternatively, in each serving dish. Tomatoes should be used twice as much as any other vegetable. Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette and top with plenty of fresh herbs.

A couple notes: First, the veggies in my pictures are cut much thicker than they should be. Yours will look different, and that is good. Second, I enjoy the super-fresh, simple taste of this dish on its own, but it would also be delightful as a companion to pasta. If you go this route, layer the veggies with a spoonful of marinara between them, omit the balsamic, and reduce the number of tomatoes by half. Serve with whole wheat noodles of your choice, tossed in olive oil, salt & pepper, fresh grated parmigiano-reggiano, and half of the fresh herbs. This adds a really satisfying element to the dish and turns it in to a yummy comfort food.

This one's for you, Jenn. Enjoy!

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