Monthly Archives: September 2013

Ratatouille

I have this little calendar that sits next to my computer, a gift from a friend.  It’s filled with wisdom and small inspirations for everyday life.  Every morning I’m greeted with a new thought or quote for the day.
So Saturday morning I read . . . .
Looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them.
Lucy Maud Montgomery
And that’s exactly how I felt about my Ratatouille Adventure!

I love this time of year when Summer meets Fall!  When tomatoes and zucchini meet up with Acorn Squash, onions and cold weather greens.  It’s a medley of flavors for sure and I’ve been craving a pot of something warm, rich in flavor and fresh!

I’ve always wanted to make Ratatouille – so this weekend when Mick’s homegrown eggplants were ready to harvest we decided to go on an adventure to find the rest of our ingredient list!  So we jumped in the car and headed over to an organic farm I’ve been hearing rumblings about, the Meyer Farm in Wauconda (not far from where we live).  And we found everything we needed, onions, zucchini, sweet red peppers and fresh oregano!

Here’s a Picture of a part of their farm stand . . . .

DSCN3813Have you ever felt that you’ve discovered a Gem hiding right in your back yard?  That’s how Mick and I felt Saturday when we hiked about the farm and fed the chickens and visited the rows of Rosemary (they started as an herb farm) . . . a blissful Fall afternoon!  But we had work to do . . . a new recipe to dive into!

Here’s a picture of Mick’s Eggplants!

DSCN3818And after a bit of chopping, seasoning and simmering, here’s our reward!

DSCN3822Oh my gosh how we have been enjoying this awesome seasonal dish!  Even PK gave me a thumbs up (yep)!  I served it with Crusty (still warm) Sour Dough Bread . . . . which as I’ve been reading is just what you want to accompany this herb-infused, kinda creamy savory dish!!

I think Lucy was right on . . . . looking forward is half the pleasure of it all . . .
Happy Fall!!

Ratatouille
1 can (28 ounces) whole peeled tomatoes OR 1/2 can + 5 fresh tomatoes, med
6 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large eggplant OR 2 small, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 yellow onions, diced large
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 bell peppers OR 6 small sweet, seeded and diced large
1 large zucchini, diced large
1 bay leaf
1 Tablespoon fresh oregano leaves, lightly chopped
2-3 Tablespoons Red-wine OR balsamic vinegar (optional)

1.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut tomatoes into 3/4 inch chunks and place them along with their juices on a rimmed baking sheet.  If using fresh tomatoes, leave skins on.  Drizzle with 2 Tablespoons oil and toss gently.  Bake until thickened, 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

2.   While the tomatoes are baking, place eggplant in a large bowl and toss with the kosher salt.  Let sit about 20 minutes.  In a large pot, heat 4 Tablespoons oil over medium heat.  Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until onion and garlic are soft, 5 minutes.  Add the peppers and cook, stirring until crisp-tender, 4  minutes.

3.   Add the tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, bay leaf and oregano to the pot.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture comes to a simmer.  Reduce heat to medium-low and partially cover.  Cook at a gentle simmer until vegetables are tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.  Drizzle and toss with vinegar as desired.

Prep Notes:
The original recipe calls for a drizzle of red wine vinegar just before serving, but the Ratatouille was so amazing just as it was I decided to take a pass.  Also, I used smaller sweet red peppers from Meyers Farm and half canned and half fresh tomatoes (the juices thicken a bit in the oven).  I tried a bit of the Ratatouille with a drizzle of some 12 year old balsamic I have and it was delicious – but really, what I was craving was that fresh herb and vegetable farm fresh flavor.
Simple. . . .  BIG YUM!

Recipe Adapted From:   Everyday Food,  October 2010,
Martha Stewart.com

Potato Salad

Keep Calm and Carry On . . . . some weeks are just like that.  It seems to be my mantra lately.  I’m playing the words like a script through my mind . . . kcco, Kcco, KCCO . . . .

We’re definitely back in the swing around here . . . school, violin lessons, homework . . .  appointments, presentations, job things.   Our mornings are fast, and that pretty much seems to set the pace for the rest of the day!  Usually, I’m up before everyone else.  So the other day, I hit the button on the alarm clock and headed down the stairs.  In the kitchen, I hit the button on the Keurig and paused, waiting for my coffee.  Feeling a bit overwhelmed, I stared out the window into the very early morning, not quite there yet sunlight, and said a prayer.  “Please, help me find the inspiration.”  I took my coffee over to the computer and hit the start-up button and waited.  My computer is slow.

And then, right there at my dining room table (my desk), in the dark of the morning, the screen on my computer opened up with a bright flash – and there she was, Diana Nyad, who had just swam from Cuba to Key West, Florida.  Really?  She really did that?  It was her fifth attempt.  Through jellyfish and shark infested waters (without a shark cage) and for nearly 53 hours, she swam.  And, I gotta add, because I find it so incredibly amazing, she’s 64 years old!  OK.  Woooow!  I’m INSPIRED!!

Her mantra = Find a way!
Her team’s T-shirts read = Extreme Dream!
I think we all need one of those!   

But honestly, what I find most inspiring has absolutely nothing to do with her age and everything to do with that little something deep inside that allowed Diana to think BIG (over the span of 3 decades)!  I watched an interview where she shared that it’s everything she learned in her first 4 attempts – the physical demands, the mental struggles, the jellyfish – everything, that allowed this fifth attempt to be successful!  No road blocks for this girl, just expanded possibilities and find-a-way attitude!
I love that . . .  . and I love when I am reminded of that, at exactly the time I need it most! “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

So I came upon this Potato Salad Recipe while visiting my mother-in-law last weekend.  And I was so happy because our local farm stands and markets have loads of potatoes!  This particular recipe includes 2 of my very favorite things, fresh Basil (and I’ve got tons of that on my back deck) and Parmesan Reggiano!  It calls for red potatoes and toasted pine nuts too!  So Good!

Here’s the potatoes before I put them in the microwave.  I took some of the peelings off but you can leave them all on if you prefer.

DSCN3770

And here’s how I toasted the pine nuts.  Simply place them in a pan over medium low heat and toss lightly.  It only takes a minute . . .  watch them carefully!

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One of the modifications I made was to add a bit more of the Parmesan Reggiano.  Can you ever really have enough of this!?

DSCN3773

And . . . . Potato Salad!!

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It’s great both warm and cold and definitely as leftovers!  Enjoy!

Potato Salad
8 medium red skinned potatoes
1/3 cup white balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1/2 cup parmesan reggiano, grated
large handful of basil (about 1/2 cup loosly packed), finely minced
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
fresh ground pepper to taste

1.   Peel potatoes as per preference (I peel only half of the skins) and place in a large bowl with 11/2 cups water.  Place plastic wrap over the potatoes being careful not to touch the potatoes with the plastic.  Microwave on high for 12 minutes, taking them out mid-way and turning the potatoes.  Remove potatoes and allow to cool.  Cut into bite size chunks.

2.   Next, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, garlic, sea salt and fresh ground pepper and set aside.

3.   Place pine nuts in a pan and toast on medium low heat for about 1 minute, tossing as they toast.  Watch carefully so not to burn.

4.   Next, add the finely minced basil, the parmesan cheese and the pine nuts to the potatoes and toss with the vinaigrette.  Serve warm or if you prefer them cool, refrigerate for at least an hour.

Recipe Adapted from, Roasted Pesto Potato Salad, Relish Magazine
Original Recipe from, U.S. Potato Board

Prep Notes:
I have to say I typically cook my potatoes for potato salad on the stove, but the microwave worked beautifully for the red skinned potatoes!  And simple too!  This salad definitely has a garlic presence, so hold back a bit if you prefer less.   Also, I sent my basil for a quick whirl in the blender to get it just right.