There are two main styles of cooking, as my eyes see it today. One celebrates the simple purity of the ingredients and aims to let each one shine through in a merged state of clarity with the others. The other style contains more emphasis on stylistic appeal, sophistication, complexity – not to mention ambition. Both styles can be fun, and certainly great, pure ingredients in the latter add to the attractiveness of the dish. I love to create both, and today’s post is definitely celebrating simplicity.
As the season peaks, we’ve been receiving some beautiful vegetables from the farm where I’m a working member, and I was so pleased to find eggplant and gorgeous tomatoes among other delights last week. I packed up a cooler full of these goods and visited family in Denver last weekend. We made this dish. I had an inspiration to grill the eggplant, onions and zucchini as a first step in creating dinner that night. The added smokiness brings earthy depth that increases exponentially the second day….should you be lucky enough to have leftovers.
My son manned the grill, on the second level balcony of he and my daughter in law’s condo, a picturesque view with pine and willow trees, racing bunnies and squirrels around and below us. Loyal readers may remember another meal utilizing said grill, with grilled spaghetti squash and spring onions, and something to do with Paul Newman from several years ago. 🙂
Post grilling and chopping, (note: grilled onions are mighty slippery things) the pot cooks up with fire roasted tomatoes, tender, sweet farm carrots and young green beans. Ok, so the carrots and green beans are not strictly traditional. But we don’t care. It’s truly worth making for the amazing smells alone, filling your kitchen with absolute summer.
I’m a big fan of David Leibovitz and his fantastic blog Living the sweet life in Paris – and had just gotten his latest post in my email a day or two before my Denver getaway. In it, I discovered for the first time that when I haven’t had nuts in the pantry to add to my pesto, I was actually making a legitimate French pistou. And yes, should I choose, and I did, to add a fresh, dead-ripe roma to the food processor along with the basil, it would be a French thing too, though debatable, David says. The tomato gives a wonderful texture to the pistou, easy to stir luxuriously into your bowl of ratatouille.
And so, without further ado, please jump into this simple, flavor filled bowl of late August from the garden.
Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille with French Pistou
Makes 4-6 servings, depending on how hungry you might be.
- 3 small eggplant, washed, ends trimmed, thickly sliced lengthwise
- 1 large or several small zucchini, depending on size, cut into thick lengthwise slices
- 1 medium onion, red, yellow or white, peeled, cut in half
- 5-6 large cloves garlic, chopped, if you like garlic as much as we do 🙂
- about 1 1/2 c. young organic carrots, scrubbed, trimmed, sliced
- a good handful haricot verts/green beans, stem ends snapped
- 1 28 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
- sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- olive oil for brushing the vegetables to be grilled
Brush the eggplant, zucchini and onion pieces with olive oil, season if you like with salt and pepper. Grill until marked, browned and slightly charred. YUM.
Back in the kitchen, let grilled vegetables cool, then chop. In a large pot, over medium heat, add just a touch of olive oil and place carrots and chopped garlic to lightly saute. Add the grilled vegetables, tomatoes and green beans. Simmer over medium low heat for at least a half an hour, stirring occasionally and swooning with delight at the smell of your upcoming dinner.
For French Pistou
- 1/4 lb. fresh basil, looked over – and, if the stems are tender, try leaving them – no leaf plucking!
- 4-5 cloves garlic, roasted if you like
- 1/3 c.or so olive oil
- 1/2 c. shredded parmesan romano cheese blend, if desired
- 1 fully ripe roma or other favorite juicy tomato, cored and quartered
- 1/2 a lemon
- salt and pepper
Make your pistou in the usual way of pesto. I work it like this. Basil and garlic into the food processor, pour in the oil then process. Scrape sides of work bowl, add cheese, tomato, and squeeze the lemon over top. Process until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste.
Serve up bowls of ratatouille, add a dollop of pistou a-top, and you are set. A slice of good bread scraped with butter goes well.
*Leftovers are great reheated for breakfast, served beneath poached eggs. Don’t forget the pistou.