Quick Rustic Ratatouille

The veggies in the photo above look so fresh don’t they? It’s all the bright colours I think. I bet you have a ton of zucchini and tomatoes in your garden…maybe even peppers and eggplant. Me? None. Zero. Zilch. It was not my gardening year. It was not Eggton‘s gardening year either. Check out her video. Oh, and read her. She’s funny as hell and always includes pictures of her kids dogs and posts yummy recipes.

For me, there was too much work travel this summer and then lack of motivation to get out there and work in the yard. I can only speak for myself because Bob has a garden too (he takes care of the back yard, I deal with the front) but he grew different stuff. Garlic, onions, peas, beans and some weird looking heirloom tomatoes, oh and corn! A few cobs actually grew this year. That was cool. His stuff looks great. Mine sucks. But I’m not competing or anything. 🙂

Ok so back to the photo of the ratatouille. The tomatoes and herbs are fresh but everything else has been quickly roasted until tender and the flavours are wonderful. You can make ratatouille any time of year, but there’s nothing better than when everything is in season. (And even better when they come from your own garden but I’ll leave that to you guys, ok?).

This is a quick, rustic rat that’s super simple to throw together. It really benefits from fresh herbs so if you don’t grow them yourself, splurge on them because it will be worth it.

Slice the zucchini in rounds, the eggplants in spears and roughly chop the peppers and onions into ~1″ pieces and toss everything into a mixing bowl as you go. Add salt and pepper. I didn’t measure the salt and pepper but you can see the amount I ground in. Add more if you like.

You dump it all onto a rimmed baking sheet and roast it quickly at high heat. While it’s in the oven you prep the tomatoes and herbs and toss it all together with the hot veggies.

We like ratatouille as a side dish or tossed in pasta, rice or quinoa as a main meal. It makes a great cold pita sandwich with a smear of hummus. I just had it again for lunch tossed with fusilli, some feta cheese and a drizzle of balsamic. Serious yum!

Quick Rustic Ratatouille
Thanks to my mom for this recipe…I’m not sure where she got it but she adapted it and then I did…..) Preheat the oven to 475º.

Cut and toss into a large bowl:
1 small eggplant, cut into thick spears
2 med zucchini, cut in rounds
1 med onion, coarsely chopped
3 bell peppers coarsely chopped
6 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped (I’m starting to sound like a broken record. Hmmmm…kids today probably don’t know what that means.)

Toss with: 3 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper and spread out onto a rimmed baking sheet (spray it or spread out a little olive oil on the sheet first)
Roast for 15 min or until the veg are tender.

While the veg are roasting: 
Chop: large handfuls of basil, flat-leaf parsley and cilantro (have about 1-1.5 cups of chopped herbs)
Halve: lots of cherry tomatoes

Take the vegetables out of the oven, stir in the tomatoes and herbs and transfer to a large platter. Enjoy!

Penne with Mushrooms and Spinach

Once again the day got away from me and I found myself at 5:30pm staring into the fridge trying to figure out what to make for dinner but didn’t really feel like cooking. Sigh. But instead of turning to old standbys grilled cheese or soup and toast I managed to pull together a pretty decent pasta dish without a huge amount of effort.  Don’t get me wrong, we love grilled cheese and Pacific Natural soups are a staple in our house (Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato is awesome) but I really wanted pasta and also had this bag of mushrooms that needed to be used up.

I figured I could make a similar wine-y broth to the farfalle I made recently.

This came together in about 20 minutes thanks to bag o’ mushrooms (sliced) and bag o’ spinach. The most work was slicing the shallots. And it was really yummy, with a deep mushroom flavour.

To make it Evan-friendly, because he would balk at a bowl of pasta with all that ‘stuff’ in it,

I scooped out some penne that had been simmering in the veggies and broth and added some grated parmesan so he’d get all the flavour without the ‘bits’. I figure, it’s the same meal, just adjusted a bit, which I’m okay with. I mean, we can avoid being too accommodating but still be considerate of his finicky palate, right? Everybody wins. Then I put some of the braised veg on the side, which he didn’t try, but that’s ok.

Penne with Mushrooms and Spinach

Truth be told, I didn’t measure anything when I made this so you may want to add more or less liquid to deglaze and braise depending on the amount of mushrooms and spinach you use. The one third – two third ratio of wine to broth works well and just add more if 1 cup total volume is not broth-y enough. Remember that the mushrooms give off a lot of liquid too though.

1 8 oz bag sliced crimini mushrooms (roughly 1/2 lb sliced)
1 6 oz bag baby spinach
1 large shallot, sliced (about 3/4 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup dry white wine
2/3 cup chicken or vegetable stock
fresh parmesan cheese, finely grated
salt and pepper to taste
cream to taste (optional)
Pasta (we used Trader Joe’s whole wheat penne)

In a large skillet on med-high, saute mushrooms and shallots in a bit of butter and olive oil, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute. Deglaze by adding the wine and broth, then dump in the spinach, a good grind of pepper and salt (to taste), then cover and reduce heat to simmer for 7-8 minutes.

When spinach is very wilted, stir to combine and add pasta to the skillet…more or less depending on the pasta to veg ratio you like. Add a drizzle of cream if you want, and let it simmer a bit longer until some of the liquid reduces. Stir in 1/2 cup fresh grated parmesan and serve immediately.

Farfalle with Snap Peas, Pine Nuts and Currants

It was a Mommy and Evan night since Bob had a meeting to go to, and Evan was pretty excited about it.  Much as he loves his Daddy, having Mommy to himself is definitely a treat in his eyes! Particularly since work had me traveling a fair bit last year. I’ll take it…I’m sure it won’t last too much longer since he’s seven already. Sigh.

So my imaginative whirlwind of a boy was acting his most grown up and it was lovely to have him sitting at his little kitchen desk doing his homework on his own while I made dinner. Then he set the table and tidied up his toys. O.M.G. I’m sure he’ll be back to normal tomorrow. I couldn’t persuade him to try this dish, so he had his farfalle with pesto instead. Given that he’s usually partial to penne it was nice to see him try out a different shape at least. Then he got into his PJs and we spend the next hour reading Harry Potter 2. Nice.

It is totally worth toasting the pine nuts for this recipe. It doesn’t take long, only 3-5 minutes…any longer and you risk burning them anyway. Just put a bunch in a frying pan on medium high without any butter or oil. Keep an eye on them and shake them every so often. Once they start to darken it will go fast and they will continue to brown once you take the pan off the burner so if they’re the right colour, dump them in to a bowl. Make a bunch and then store them in the fridge and toss them in salads. Yum!

I adapted this recipe from an America’s Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers magazine, which called for broccoli and oricchiette (shells), neither of which I had so we ended up with farfalle and snap peas.

It was quite good. Next time I will use broccoli though because the tops of the ‘trees’ are perfect for trapping yummy melted, wine-soaked Parmesan. Basically use equal amounts of sliced onion, mushroom and veg and 1/2 that amount of pine nuts and currants. Use more or less pasta, as you like. Definitely don’t skip the currants…they add a subtle sweetness on top of the wine and garlic that’s fab!

Table for two...complete with candles and penguin.

Farfalle with Snap Peas, Pine Nuts and Currants
Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen 30-Minute Suppers, Spring 2011.

1/2 red onion or 1 cup sliced french shallot, sliced thin
1 large/2 med garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup dried currants
1/3 cup white wine
2/3 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 box farfalle
1 cup snap peas cut on an angle in small pieces
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Gently toss pine nuts in a frying pan with no oil over med-high heat until slightly darkened. Bring pasta water to a boil and start to cook pasta. You’ll toss in the snap peas to cook with the pasta for the last couple of minutes.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook onion and mushrooms until softened. Add garlic and pine nuts and cook, stirring frequently, until garlic is fragrant — about 1 minute. Add currants, white wine and broth and simmer for a few minutes until the liquid reduces a bit and the pasta and peas finish cooking.

Drain the pasta and peas and toss them into the skillet along with the Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine. Serve immediately. Makes quite a bit.