Category Archives: zucchini/summer squash

Ratatouille

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Like many others (I think), I was rather deeply inspired by the movie Ratatouille. And odd as it may seem, I became infected with a desire to recreate the masterpiece of a cartoon rat.

I had no previous experience with ratatouille, which in its most basic form is a simple country conglomeration of vegetables. So my vision had something to do with fancy restaurant food delicately dressed on white plates and gobbled up by critics.

Disney's Ratatouille's Ratatouille
Image from Disney Pixar’s Ratatouille

Fortunately, Smitten Kitchen (and other sites) had already followed up on this impulse.

I did change a few things though. First of all, since it’s tomato season, I’m not that into using canned tomatoes or sauce or paste or any of that. I have real awesome tomatoes, I want to use them. So I made up a little sauce and baked it in the pan first, then followed the recipe. I also added cheese on top, because nom.

Furthermore, I didn’t have any red peppers. So much for that dash of color.

One of the useful tricks used in this recipe (Mark Bittman’s, anyway) that should also be repurposed for many others is salting eggplant. All you need to do it cut it ahead of time, sprinkle some salt on it and let it sit for a little while. This gets rid of some of the juice and makes a phenomenal difference in texture. Although perhaps if I had a mandolin it wouldn’t matter as much for this particular dish.

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Obviously I couldn’t cut them as thin as a mandolin can. Although I admit (excuses…) that I was also in a bit of a hurry with these, because really one can do wonders with a knife.

Ratatouille
1 really fat tomato or a few smaller ones (the sauce kind)
1/2 onion
Garlic (to taste)
Olive oil
1 small eggplant
1 small zucchini
Thyme
Salt, pepper
Parmesan, or similar cheese

Turn oven to about 375ºF. Chop up the tomatoes, onion, and garlic and put in baking dish. Roast in the oven for at least 20 minutes, stirring every now and then.

Thinly slice the eggplant, spread out and sprinkle with salt. Let sit. Thinly slice the zucchini (and red peppers if you have them). You can also throw in a different summer squash as well as the zucchini if you like. Grate the cheese.

When the tomatoes are nice and saucy, layer the zucchini and eggplant slices together in the dish (see above; you can also do it in a circle depending on the shape of your pan). Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme.

Bake for around 45 minutes (it will start smelling fantastic), then top with cheese and put back in for another 15 or so. Edges should be crispy and veggies will be cooked but definitely not soggy.

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Serve hot. I had mine with beans and quinoa because they needed using up; but I think this would go with many things, either as a side or a feature.

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And yes, that is Settlers of Catan in the background.

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Pesto Tomato Toasts

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I wouldn’t call this bruschetta. But I guess it’s similar. More like an open-face sandwich maybe. Anyway, a fantastic way to celebrate those glorious tomatoes that are at the market these days (by far my favorite time of year for produce. SO MANY COLORS. Is great). 

(This also happens to be an excellent use of all that pesto you have been making…)

One time a couple summers ago I was so inspired by the tomatoes I went out and bought a gallon of milk to make fresh mozzarella, which is surprisingly easy (as long as you can find raw or at least unpasteurized milk). At some point I shall share some cheese-making adventures with you, although it’s been a little while.

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Inspired yet?

I don’t really feel like I need to give you a recipe for these but for consistency’s sake…

Pesto Tomato Toasts
Bread
Pesto (any variety, although I am partial to basil here)
Zucchini, if you want
Fresh cheese (I recommend goat cheese or fresh mozzarella)
Tomatoes
Salt and pepper (I forgot this the first time and it makes such a difference!)

Thinly slice and quickly sauté the zucchini, if using. Toast the bread (unless you have ridiculously fresh bread). Spread with pesto, then zucchini, cheese, and tomatoes (I like this order because otherwise the tomato juice can make the bread a little soggy). You can also drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar if you want. Admire, then stuff into your face. 

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A BLT is another fabulous medium for those fresh tomatoes. I really don’t think I need to give you a recipe for those… B, L, T. ‘Nuff said (just make sure you get good quality ingredients).

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P.S. Check out my new paring knife—my other one broke (it was a bad day) and so I have attained a new one with the help of my father. Good knives are essential to successful cooking. Shiny, yes?

 

SK’s Burst Tomato Galette with Corn and Zucchini

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I have made this a few times now—I discovered the recipe last summer—and I’m kind of obsessed. The combination of vegetables is fantastic and a galette (which is like a pie but more rustic: a pie crust just folded over the filling rather than in a pie pan) is somehow tremendously exciting, not to mention beautiful.

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The recipe is from Smitten Kitchen, no need to repeat it here. And if you haven’t checked out the rest of her site before you have a fun few hours (/days) ahead of you, Smitten Kitchen is one of my favorite cooking blogs and probably one of the most famous.

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Cooking down the veggies so they don’t make the crust soggy
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Check out those gobs of fat! Makes it nice and flaky (although I think this crust would be perfectly acceptable with a little less butter)

I brought this to a potluck last weekend and it was well received, as it has been on previous occasions. Yum yum yum.

Summer squash salad

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Well, it’s happened. I have too many vegetables. My CSA pickup was yesterday and I still have a bunch of carrots and a whole cabbage and a variety of other goodies from last week. And I never seem to have enough eggs to eat them with at breakfast. Thankfully most of them keep a while. We shall see.

As we are in the throes of summer squash season (pretty sure zucchini is a type of summer squash, so that applies here too), I thought I’d feature the lovely mild golden vegetable here. With a few of the growing number of tomatoes (does it seem very late for tomatoes this year? Maybe because I’ve been further south in years past. I cannot even express how excited I am about tomatoes).

Anyway, like most salads, in fact most things I’ve been posting, this is pretty simple. I guess that’s kinda my style. I did happen to stumble across a recipe for this, in one of my new cookbooks (!), The New Vegetarian Cooking For Everyone by Deborah Madison. But it is not dissimilar from something I would otherwise throw together: veggies, cheese, vinegar.

Summer squash salad
1 summer squash
Olive oil
2 cloves of garlic (I happen to have fresh, but use whatever)
1 ripe tomato (a few small ones would also be good here)
Several basil leaves
Feta
A few teaspoons of your favorite vinegar (I like red wine)
Salt and pepper

Cut up the squash in thin rounds. I like to wash it and slice it between a small knife and my thumb right into the pan. Sauté with oil and garlic until soft and slightly translucent (I tend to err on undercooking them, because I like to maintain a bit of crunch). Meanwhile, chop up the tomato and place with the basil and cheese in a bowl. When the squash is done, add that to the bowl. Top with vinegar, salt, and pepper. Taste, and enjoy. Eat warm or cold.

As I alluded to, this adheres to some essential tenets of salads and vegetarian cooking. The most important ingredients are vegetables, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper. You can do magical things with these basic components. To make it a full meal, add some form of protein: cheese, nuts, seeds, beans. I often bring a salad topped with a bit of goat cheese and some sunflower seeds to work (read how to pack a salad in a jar here). And I remember a few summers ago where I was using a random selection of ingredients to make a couple different dishes: green beans with vinegar and almonds (I think I roasted these with soy sauce if I remember correctly); and zucchini with fresh ricotta and a little lemon juice.

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Zucchini Fritters with Beans

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Okay, so I actually used summer squash. I pretty much interchange them, although they are not the same.

These were good but I have a feeling they needed just a little something else. A drizzle of chili sauce, maybe. Or some other form of condiment. Or maybe a little kick in the batter. The problem must be that I didn’t totally follow the recipe, which called for a chili in it, because I didn’t have a chili. Oh well.

I’ll give you a few recipe ideas, since I have not yet perfected it: the ones I made were from Rancho Gordo, and I imagine they will be better later in the season when I get some peppers. However, I also (the next day, of course) came across this recipe from Saveur, which also looks excellent. Let me know what you come up with in the comments!

The basic of vegetable fritters/pancakes/whatever is grated vegetable that is strained, mixed with a few things, and fried/griddled. Same basic idea for latkes. Fresh corn cakes you don’t have to strain.

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Once fried, I topped them with local Jacob’s Cattle beans I had made the night before and some veggies. I love beans. I probably have told you that already. They are delicious and earthy. And Jacob’s Cattle beans are so pretty (granted, they are less so when cooked. But more delicious).

Dried beans are much tastier than canned beans, and feel more like a dish in themselves than an ingredient. Dry beans are also very cheap, so make for good budget food. If you like, you can make a big batch and them freeze them so you have them on hand for quick meals.

I like soaking my beans, although I’ve cooked them successfully unsoaked before, so if you are unprepared, you can still enjoy them. Keep in mind that they do take a while to cook though, and cooking time can be a little unpredictable (depends on elevation, the season, the weather, your mood…).

Basic Beans
Beans
Water
Seasoning (cumin is great, whatever you like)
Salt (wait!)

Put the beans in a large-ish pot (at least twice the size of the amount of beans you are cooking) and cover with at least an inch of water. Let soak for 12 hours or overnight.

Keep the soaking water! It will make them juicier and more delicious. Add a little extra water if they have soaked everything up, and spices if you like (these can also be added partway through the cooking process). Bring to a boil, then turn down and simmer (you should have a nice burbly sound happening) for about an hour. When they are getting tender, THEN you can add the salt (otherwise they won’t cook. I’ve never actually done that, but everyone says). Cook a little more until nice and soft (there still should be some thick juices in the bottom, don’t let it go dry. If you have to add water I like adding boiling water. You can also add stock if you like, or even cook them with some bones or bits of meat to make them a little richer).

Top with whatever you like, and enjoy! I had the fritters, beans, tomato, parsley, tomatoes, and some slivered cheese. I look forward to doing them again with a little corn on top, or maybe a cilantro sauce.