Posts Tagged With: tomatoes

Ratatouille Tarte

So it’s my birthday today (exciting !) and since food seems to be my favorite item of conversation, I decided that a potluck event would be appropriate to fete the addition of another candle on the proverbial birthday cake (so to speak…).  Naturally, I wasn’t going to let the event go by without making a dish – what if no one brought anything ?  What if college kids just brought cookies or chips ???  WE HAVE TO EAT SOMETHING, RIGHT ?

Right.  Sort of. Not really ?

To my pleasant surprise, I was surrounded by such lovely people that I had no reason to fret – worms and dirt, croissants, pita chips and hummus, bean and chicken salad, sweet potato homefries, hungarian and indian style fajitas, multiple bottles of wine and my own tarte set the stage for a fantastic evening between friends.  I am quite lucky to know such people – I think it’s safe to say all tummies were satiated.

In any case – the ratatouille tarte turned out quite well (if I do say so myself).  A recipe hailing from the archives of Food and Wine magazine (My mom clipped it many years ago but dared not make it until many hands were present in the kitchen), this tarte combines the fantastic flavors of the traditional French dish of ratatouille (yes, like the film) with a nice crust of phyllo dough and parmesan cheese.  It’s great fresh out of the oven and perfect as lunch the next day.  It reminds me of late, indian summers that occur here on the east coast with its strong flavors of zucchini, roma tomato, and eggplant.

Allons-y !

For the filling :

1 3/4-pound eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried thyme
1 can tomato paste
A sprinkling of oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350F.  Peel and cut the eggplant into rounds, then cut those rounds into chunks.  Place these on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 10 minutes or until just SLIGHTLY browned.  This will help get some of the moisture out of the eggplant.

Once toasted, place in a large pan with the onion and the bell pepper and a nice dollop olive oil.  Cook until the eggplant is soft – it takes about 10 minutes.  I put the eye on medium, but make sure to stir so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pan.  Add the thyme, salt, and pepper and stir.

When the onions are translucent, add the tomato paste (the whole can !) and stir to combine.  Cover and cook until the moisture has evaporated.  This can be prepared in advance (lovely perk).  Let sit on the stove until the crust is ready to go.

For the crust:

10 fresh phyllo pastry sheets, thawed
LOTS of parmesan cheese
LOTS of olive oil
Provolone cheese

SIDE NOTE : Trader Joe’s now sells phyllo dough !  Make my day !  It’s thin and delicious…I’m quite pleased.  In a tart pan (I used a brownie pan because that’s all I have here….), place a sheet of phyllo dough.

Drizzle olive oil and parmesan cheese on top of the phyllo dough sheet.

Cover with another sheet of dough.  Continue this for 10 layers.  Or more.  It’s delicious, so put the effort in.  It’s well worth it.  🙂

Place the filling on top of the final layer of dough and smoosh down until nice and flat.  Cover in slices of provolone cheese.

For the topping:

6 small plum tomatoes cut into 1/4 inch slices
2 medium zucchini cut into thin rounds
Sprinkling of oregano and parmesan cheese

In concentric circles, layer the zucchinis and tomatoes on top of the provolone cheese.  Feel free to arrange the zukes and tomatoes as you like – this is the moment of CREATIVITY !  Go wild !  Sprinkle the top with oregano and parmesan cheese.

Bake in the oven for about an hour or until the zucchinis are soft.  Let cool for a little while before cutting (or it will be a cheesy mess.)

Eat as a main dinner (or lunch the next day) and pretend you’re in the south of France…or at a birthday party surrounded by friends.

Bon appétit !

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I don’t really know WHEN I made risotto for the first time.  It just sort of…happened.  My mom bought arborio rice and we figured we’d just follow the instructions on the back and BAM we’d have delicious and authentic risotto.

Lucky for us, we figured right.  Risotto is probably one of the easiest dishes to make (and it sounds kind of impressive…) SO ever since, I’ve been the risotto queen, stirring away at the stovetop for three years now (I think), so well-versed in risotto lore that I don’t even use a recipe.

Sort of.

If you’re up for 40 minutes of prep for this delicious side dish (that can double as a main if you add some fun extras), then drag out your large saucepan and get stirring.  The quantities written here will make enough for 4 people who really like risotto.

Ingredients :

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 cup arborio rice
4-6 cups chicken OR vegetable broth (I give a large margin because some folks prefer a more al dente risotto.
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Assorted spices (herbes de provence are my fave)

In a large saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter and the oil and mix together.  Add the onion and cook until transparent and just starting to brown on the sides/tips.

Add the cup of rice, stirring constantly to avoid burning the rice.  Cook like this for about 2 minutes, or until the rice begins to brown and toasts a bit (it will smell wonderful).

Pour in two cups of broth and keep stirring.  The constant movement of the risotto is very important – you are helping to heat it evenly and moderate the starch release, which causes the rice to thicken.

Make sure to taste your rice as it cooks – when it is just a little bit chewy, add the extras – in this case, the parmesan cheese.  You can also add tomatoes (like I did in the current batch !) or zucchini orrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr chicken or mushrooms or white wine…the possibilities are endless.  🙂

Buon appetito !

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Caprese Salad

The longest day of the year has come and past…and BOY WAS IT HOT.  Temperatures of at least 97F (that’s about 36C) and a humidity level that is simply unfortunate made this solstice slightly unbearable here in the woods.  Our house is not equipped with central air, so I think my complaining is justified. We have a wall unit humming to help keep the humidity down…but it’s still uncomfortable as I sit here drafting a post.  It’s 22h30 and still about 80F outside…so pleasant…

On days like this, no one wants to be in the kitchen.  The stove shouldn’t even be turned ON for fear of adding extra (and unwelcome) heat into the house.  Tonight, we grilled outside for the protein portion of our dinner (we had salmon), and I made a cold caprese salad as the veggie.  This is a very flexible addition to a summer meal and features the classic combination of mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes – what’s not to love ?  This recipe will feed 4 people as a side dish, but it’s easily adjustable.  Also – these tomatoes are extremely good on pizza after having spent a day in the fridge…so maybe you’ll want to make extra.  🙂

Ingredients :

4 Roma tomatoes
1/2 round fresh mozzarella
About 3 tbsp olive oil
About 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh basil (about 5 leaves worth)

Start with your tomatoes.  On a clean cutting board, slice the tomato into thick rounds (about 1/4 inch thick).  Take these rounds and dice them.

The nice thing about Roma tomatoes is that they have a lot of flesh to them and not as much moisture – handy when making a salad.  That said, any tomato will work – just be sure to remove some of the seeds/tomato water in order to improve flavor.  Put the tomatoes in a medium sized bowl.

Clean your cutting board (if you’re fussy).  Unwrap the mozzarella and using a (serrated) knife, make long, clean passes through the cheese, cutting rounds of about the same thickness as the tomatoes.

You will want about 4 fair sized rounds for the salad – but it’s up to your personal taste.  If you don’t like cheese too much, use less. Dice this as you diced the tomatoes.  I made mine into little rectangles.  Add to the bowl with the tomatoes.

Pour olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper over top of the tomatoes and mozzarella.  Mix well with a spoon.  Taste it to adjust the levels of spices and vinegar.  I like the sourness of the vinegar – if you don’t, simply add a little more olive oil.

Lastly, chop the basil into strips (or rip it into pieces) and put on top of salad.  Being an aromatic, you should add the basil last to preserve its flavor for as long as possible.  Place the salad in the fridge to keep it cool, or eat it right away.

Bon appétit !

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