Take time for a veg­etable clas­sic Food: What's cook­ing?

The Standard Journal - - Food: What's cooking? - By MAR­I­AL­ISA CALTA

Some­times we learn the hard way that the more time you take in cook­ing, the big­ger the pay­off.

Un­til re­cently, I made a lazy ver­sion of the French veg­etable clas­sic, rata­touille, by chop­ping up a mess of veg­eta­bles (egg­plant, zuc­chini, bell pep­pers, onions, gar­lic and toma­toes), adding some herbs (basil, thyme), and sim­mer­ing it all in the slow cooker or on the stove­top.

Not a bad dish -- but a far cry from the rata­touille of its na­tive Provence. There, peak-of-fresh­ness veg­eta­bles are treated with high-qual­ity olive oil and ap­pro­pri­ate re­spect to make a dish greater than the sum of its parts. I learned this by mak­ing a rata­touille “gratin” (the word refers to a casse­role with a layer of toasted bread or cheese) from the new cook­book “Hun­gry for France” by Alexan­der Lobrano. It took only a bit more work than my slow-cooker ver­sion, and the re­sults were dra­mat­i­cally more fla­vor­ful.

Rata­touille is one of those “clas­sics” about which there is dis­sent. Some cooks in­clude bell pep­pers and Nicoise olives, while oth­ers do not. Fresh herbs are im­por­tant, but which herbs? Basil al­most al­ways makes an ap­pear­ance, but there are those who ar­gue in fa­vor of “herbes de Provence,” a mix of mar­jo­ram, rose­mary, sa­vory, thyme and oregano (and in the U.S., laven­der). Ju­lia Child, in the epic “Mas­ter­ing the Art of French Cook­ing,” sticks to plain old pars­ley.

The rata­touille recipe in “Hun­gry For France” comes from chef Ro­nan Ker­var­rec of La Chevre d’Or in the vil­lage of Eze, France, on the Cote d’Azur, part of the re­gion known as Provence- Alpes-Cote d’Azur, or PACA. Pre­dictably, Ker­var­rec has his own take on rata­touille. Like Ju­lia Child, he lay­ers it in a ter­rine or casse­role dish, but un­like her, he omits the pep­pers, uses a va­ri­ety of herbs, and makes a sauce out of the toma­toes in­stead of sim­ply lay­er­ing them in the dish. Speak­ing of heresy, he adds canned toma­toes to the fresh, vine-ripened ones.

Rata­touille is ac­tu­ally bet­ter if made the day be­fore; the fla­vors in­ten­sify as it rests. It can be served hot or at room tem­per­a­ture (my pref­er­ence) with sim­ple roast chicken or meat, or make it a meal by lay­er­ing some ri­cotta or moz­zarella in it be­fore bak­ing.


GRATIN Yield: 8 side serv­ings, or 4 to 6 main course serv­ings For the tomato sauce: 1/ 4- cup ex­tra- vir­gin olive oil

1/ 2 large chopped 2 gar­lic cloves, sliced 1/2-pint cherry toma­toes, halved

1/2 pound vine-ripened toma­toes, chopped

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced toma­toes, with juices

2 large basil sprigs with stems

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pep­per For the gratin: Ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil, for brush­ing and driz­zling

1 pound zuc­chini, sliced cross­wise into 1/4inch thick rounds

1 pound egg­plant, quar­tered length­wise and sliced cross­wise into 1/4inch thick slices

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pep­per

1 slice sour­dough bread, about 1/2 inch thick, crust re­moved, toasted 2 gar­lic cloves, sliced 1/4 cup packed mixed fresh pars­ley, thyme and rose­mary leaves

Make the tomato sauce:

onion, In a large saucepan, heat oil un­til hot. Add onion and gar­lic and cook over medium heat, stir­ring oc­ca­sion­ally, un­til soft­ened, about 5 min­utes. Add cherry toma­toes, vine-ripened toma­toes, diced toma­toes and basil, and sea­son with salt and pep­per. Bring to a sim­mer, and then cook over medium heat un­til sauce thick­ens, 20 to 30 min­utes. Dis­card the basil. Us­ing an im­mer­sion blen­der, puree sauce un­til smooth. Al­ter­na­tively, puree in a reg­u­lar blen­der or food pro­ces­sor, work­ing in batches (be care­ful; the hot liq­uid will spurt).

Make the gratin: Heat oven to 425 de­grees. Brush 2 large rimmed bak­ing sheets with oil. Spread zuc­chini slices on one sheet and egg­plant slices on the other. Brush slices with oil and sea­son with salt and pep­per. Bake un­til ten­der, 15 to 20 min­utes, ro­tat­ing sheets half­way through.

Tear toasted bread into pieces. In a food pro­ces­sor, pulse bread into large crumbs. Add gar­lic and herbs and pulse un­til blended.

Brush a medium ter­rine or oven­proof casse­role dish with oil. Ar­range half of the egg­plant slices in the ter­rine, slightly over­lap­ping. Spoon 1/2cup tomato sauce on top. Layer half of the zuc­chi- ni slices on top, slightly over­lap­ping, fol­lowed by an­other 1/2 cup tomato sauce; re­peat lay­ers. Sprin­kle bread crumbs on top, sea­son with salt and pep­per, and driz­zle with oil.

Trans­fer to oven and bake un­til bub­bling and crisp, about 20 min­utes, ro­tat­ing ter­rine half­way through. Let stand for 5 min­utes, then serve hot, warm or at room tem­per­a­ture. Or cool, cover and re­frig­er­ate for up to two days, and bring to room tem­per­a­ture or re­heat gen­tly be­fore serv­ing.

( Recipe from “Hun­gry for France” by Alexan­der Lobrano; Riz­zoli, 2014.)

Photo: Steven Roth­feld

Rata­touille is a prepa­ra­tion of lay­ered sum­mer veg­eta­bles.


Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.