Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Fall Cooking

That fresh, cool fall air sure gets my cooking instincts all worked up. That and the multi-colored abundance spilling off the tables at our farmers' markets. And it helps to be mildly obsessed with reading books and blogs about food. (Just finished Barbara Kingsolver's latest called Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life). Add to that a Saturday afternoon sitting at Pixar's new animated flick Ratatouille, and you've got one food-crazed woman!

So last Saturday, I scrubbed up some zukes and made Kingsolver's Zucchini Chocolate Chip Cookies (pretty good; add some nuts!). Sunday found us at the local organic market where we came upon a ratatouille table laden with all the ingredients needed for a monster autumn vegetable roast: three kinds of eggplant, two colours of zucchini, orange and red tomatoes, green, red and yellow bell peppers.... We were drooling! So we snapped up all we'd need and headed off to spend the sunshine-y day indoors making some kick-butt food.

Ronald's Ratatouille
Not to be outdone, I dug out Molly Katzen's original Moosewood Cookbook to follow her recipe for Zuccanoes--you guessed it, stuffed zucchini. After such a meal, we wouldn't be satisfied with just a piece of fruit, or even a homemade cookie. Ronald let the inspiration flow and simmered some lovely pears in red wine sauce. We felt like we'd just eaten at a four-star restaurant, which I'm not sure we've ever actually experienced.

The best thing about cooking lately has been the involvement of my daughter. She has also been bitten by the food bug and is coming up with some amazing meal ideas. Stay tuned for more fun food!

2 large, firm eggplants, sliced or chopped
3 bell peppers, any colour, sliced or chopped
3-4 zucchinis, sliced or chopped
4-5 tomatoes, sliced or chopped
2 onions, cut into wedges
lots of garlic (6-8 cloves), sliced or left whole
Fresh or dried herbs: rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Decide if you're going to slice or chop your vegetables and then do them all in the same manner. After cutting eggplant, toss it with salt in a large colander and let rest for at least 10 minutes. Rinse and squeeze dry. (This supposedly removed the bitter taste from the seeds.)
Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Coat a large oven pan with plenty of olive oil (1/4 cup or more).
Place all veggies into pan, either carefully layered as in the photo, or tossed in however.
Sprinkle on herbs, salt and pepper. Give the veggies a sprinkle of olive oil before placing them in the oven.
Roast the ratatouille for approximately 30 to 40 minutes until all veggies are soft. You can stir the vegetables if they're tossed in; sliced and layered ratatouille will cook fine if you leave it alone. Test eggplant to see if it's done (they take the longest to cook).

Pears in wine sauce
This is a great recipe to make your guests think you've spent hours in the kitchen, slaving over a gourmet dessert. In reality, it's sinfully simple!
4 just-ripe pears
1/2 litre red wine
1 cup sugar
1 clove
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Peel pears but leave them whole and with their stems. Place them in a saucepan with wine, sugar and aromatics.
Cook over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove pears and place them in the refrigerator to cool.
Continue heating the syrup until it is reduced to the thickness desired.
Cool syrup. Serve pears individually with syrup poured over them and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side.


At September 18, 2007 1:57 PM, Blogger Mademoiselle Oulla said...

Gorgeous photos! That is so funny, I almost made ratatouille last night but we ended up going out for Mexican.

At September 19, 2007 3:25 PM, Anonymous Josée said...

Gorgeous food! The pictures are very inviting. I copied down both recipes! Thanks


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