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    Entries in flowers are food (11)



    I've loved ratatouille ever since I read "The Princess and the Zucchini."

    And no it was not erotica.

    It's a short story from an anthology that was published in the early 80s by the University of BC press, and it's not your typical fairy tale. The princess does not kiss her frog (zucchini) and live happily ever after; instead, she makes dinner for the family.


    And though eggplant is often seen as the primary ingredient in this provencal vegetable stew, you just can't make it without the zucchini.


    What you need:

    • 1 large eggplant
    • 2 zucchini
    • 1/2 onion
    • 1 red bell pepper
    • 9 or 10 small tomatoes
    • 8 cloves of garlic
    • olive oil
    • balsamic vinegar
    • basil
    • thyme
    • marjoram

    What you gotta do:

    I actually took more steps in this than are absolutely necessary. I was also apparently vibrating when I made this because nearly all of the pictures are blurred by movement. But, it's stew, it's not like I need to show detail.

    Preheat the oven to 425.

    Chop the eggplant, zucchini, onion, and pepper into fair sized chunks, about 1 inch cubed. You can peel the eggplant if you want, but it's not necessary. I partly peeled mine. The colour is nice to have, but I find the skins can be tough sometimes.

    Put the veggies in a large baking dish along with 6 of the garlic cloves, whole, and drizzle a few table spoons of olive oil over them.

    See what I mean? Fuzzy.

    Toss the oil and veg together so that they're all just barely coated with the oil.

    This is the only perfectly clear picture of the night.

    Roast the veggies for at least 30 minutes, then take them out, stir them, and poke at them to see if they're done. They should be tender, on the way to being soft, but not mushy. They may need another 15 minutes in there. Mine did.

    But that's okay, because it gives you time to make the sauce.

    So, yes, you could just put the tomatoes and herbs in the baking dish and do it all in one pan. But you don't have quite as much control over the moisture level that way. And most of the moisture is going to come from the tomatoes. I wanted a very thick stew, not at all soupy, so I did my tomatoes on the stove top in a small pan.

    First though, chop them into chunks about the size of the rest of the veggies and remove the seeds and pulp. That part alone gets rid of a fair amount of moisture.

    Chop the garlic, and chiffonade the basil as well.

    Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a shallow pan. Drop in the tomatoes and garlic and let them cook for a few minutes. The pan should be hot enough that the tomatoes sizzle as soon as they're in, and they should stay bubbling the whole time. It won't take long for the tomatoes to lose their shape and turn into something resembling a thick sauce.

    Once they have, add the herbs.

    Three pictures of the damn sauce and this is the clearest one. I gave up.

    Basil is apparently some kind of faux pas in ratatouille because it's considered too Italian for this French dish, which I totally don't understand because it is considered a "herbe de Provence" like the thyme and marjoram are. Lavender is too, and while I have some in the cupboard, I'm saving it for a fabulous dessert.

    By the time the tomatoes have cooked down, the veggies should be done.

    Pour the tomatoes over them, then add about a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.

    Okay, the blur in this one might be my fault, because I was pouring and picturing at the same time. But still! That's amazingly fuzzy, even for me.

    Gently stir this all together. The veggies should be able to hold their shape as they're being coated by the tomatoes and vinegar.

    I know, it seems a little odd to be pouring vinegar into a stew, but it gives the sweet veggies a bit of zing.

    Serve with some crusty french bread, or some garlic toast with mozzarella.

    If that's not too Italian for you. (seriously, where do people come up with this shit)

    You can serve this with rice, or noodles, or as a side with chicken. Me, I'd rather eat it with a spoon. I also want to try putting it on the garlic bread and baking the mozzarella on top of it...


    Meta Salad

    A salad made of salad.

    It's way too hot to cook, never mind eating hot things. I think July may end up being the month of salads. I've got a couple planned and Taneasha's loving having hers tossed. Hopefully we'll get to see more of that.

    Me, I was crazy enough to make chicken broth last week (pics later) and so I've got a bunch of packages of chicken meat in the freezer. We'll ignore the broth for now since soup is entirely out of the question. If you don't happen to have nicely packaged portions of already cooked chicken in your freezer, those rotisserie birds that most grocery stores have handy will work just fine.

    Chicken Salad in a Salad

    What you need:

    • about 2 cups of cooked, chopped chicken
    • a bit of onion
    • a couple carrots
    • 3 or 4 radishes
    • 1/4 c parsley
    • 2 tbsp dill
    • 1 tbsp capers
    • 1/2 tsp celery seed
    • 1/4 c mayo
    • a bit of lemon juice
    • large lettuce leaves
    • alphalpha sprouts
    • tasty tiny tomatos

    What you gotta do:

    Dice all the veggies into tiny chunks. If you like celery, it would probably work well in this. I don't like celery, so I opted for radishes. Nice crunch, a bit of bite, totally underutilized root. Adds a nice bit of colour too.

    Dump all the veggies and herbs and seeds and flowers (capers are flowers) into a bowl with the chicken. Squeeze on some lemon juice. Salt and pepper would work at this point too.

    Blob on some mayo. Real mayo.

    You should also select a few good sized lettuce leaves and rinse them off. You're going to use them whole, so a salad spinner may not be the right tool for the job. I just rolled mine up in a teatowel to dry them.

    Use the lettuce leaves like taco shells. Some alphalpha sprouts in the bottom, then the chicken salad, and a few slices of the tiny awesome tomatos to decorate the top.

    Oh yeah, and then sprinkle it with bacon. Everything is better with bacon sprinkles.

    I ate mine like tacos, but I suppose you could use a fork if you really wanted to.

    And yes, I admit it, I bought the tomatos because they were little and cute, but they really have a great bright sweetness that works well with the tangy mayo and lemon in the dressing.

    What have you bought because it was little and cute?