Springing into fall with super soup

I set out this week to make a soup. This is partially weather-related and mostly due to the fact that I had a head cold for about half the week and wanted my cozy hot comfort food.

The recipe that stood out most to me was a light spring soup called a brodo. But this is fall, dammit. Of course, I’m sure it’s possible still to find asparagus in the grocery store, either fresh or frozen, but it just didn’t feel right.

Brodo ingredients, sans broth. Isn’t it ironic, don’t ya think?

Also, because this soup had some cream and gnocchi, I thought it’d work as a fall dish.

So, I did some swapping and some additions, and boy, did I make a good, and pretty easy soup. The biggest difficulty was that I made my own broth. However, it’s not entirely necessary, and stupid me, I had some broth in the freezer that I realized to late. So, good reminder to make broth way ahead of time and freeze it, but yeah, try to remember it’s there when needed. Or, just buy some high-quality broth.

To fully fall this soup, I changed asparagus for Brussels sprouts and added bacon. It wasn’t even that many changes, but it sure felt perfect for autumn.

Soup is gone. So sad.

Here’s what I did, adapting from my Soup Nights cookbook (one of too many/not enough soup cookbooks I own):

Ingredients 

  • 2 T. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. Brussels sprouts, sliced
  • 8 c. vegetable or chicken broth (store bought or pre-made)
  • ⅓ c. heavy cream
  • 4 to 5 oz. blue cheese crumbles, divided
  • 4 t. cornstarch
  • 4 t. tap water
  • 16 oz. pre-made potato gnocchi
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Cayenne pepper, to taste (I like it spicy so I used closer to 1 t. but very taste dependent and a little goes a long way)
  • 1 to 1 ½ bunches green onions, sliced, to taste
  • 8 slices bacon, cooked to package directions, for serving
  • Chives, to taste, for serving

Directions

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the oil and then the Brussels sprouts. Cook until softened and starting to brown. Add the vegetable broth and heat to boiling.

Meanwhile, mix together the blue cheese and heavy cream in a small bowl. Once the broth is boiling, add the cheese and cream mixture.

In the same bowl (or separately), mix together the corn starch and water, and then add that mixture to the soup mixture. Stir often for about 3 minutes until the soup begins to thicken.

Add the salt and pepper, cayenne, green onions, and the gnocchi, cooking another 3 to 5 minutes until the pre-made gnocchi is cooked through. Season more, as needed.

Ladle soup into bowls, serve with cooked bacon, any additional blue cheese crumbles as desired, and chives, and enjoy!

Lazy, lovely layered lasagna

I was scrolling through Twitter one fine day keeping up on the shitshow that is our current American political system when I was distracted by something not actually terrible, an Epicurious video.

The short clip I watched without sound was a recipe for slow-cooker lasagna. I thought it sounded amazing, except, you know, I wanted to make it in my Dutch oven.

Lasagna ingredients.

Now, I’ve made lasagna a lot and I have a couple of favorites, so instead of watching the video again, I just sort of guessed/remembered/assumed what I should do to put together my own dish.

Except for the fact that I did a terrible job of evenly distributing my filling, the lasagna was amazing. I mean, most times I make lasagna, there’s too many noodles to fit but this time, oof, I really distributed poorly for the layers. But all was not lost. I just made sure to take from the better filled areas and the less filled areas and made it work.

However, if you, dear reader, try the same, be sure to go light on the filling as you roll up the noodles.

Now, having made lasagna a few different ways during my time, starting with the traditional-ish, I have to say my favorite is still actually the sheet pan recipe because I like my lasagna crispy. But if you really like the saucy bits, this one is for you. And either way, good lasagna is good lasagna, so this was quite good.

BRB, there’s more in the fridge.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 1 box lasagna noodles, cooked to package directions
  • 32 oz. jar of arrabbiata sauce, or red pasta sauce to your liking
  • 1 (15 oz.) tub ricotta
  • 3 c. mozzarella, shredded, divided
  • 1 c. Parmesan cheese, shredded, divided
  • 4 oz. feta, crumbled
  • 1 egg
  • 1 (10 oz.) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed
  • 10 oz. marinated artichokes, chopped
  • ½ T. basil, chopped
  • ½ T. dried oregano
  • ½ T. dried rosemary
  • 1 t. red pepper flakes, optional
  • Pepper, to taste

Directions

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix together the ricotta, 1 c. mozzarella, ⅓ c. Parmesan, egg, spinach, artichokes, and the herbs and spices, until well mixed. EVENLY spread the mixture onto about 14 lasagna noodles, more if necessary, and roll the noodles lengthwise.

Poor about ¼ of the sauce onto the bottom of a Dutch oven. Add about half the rolled noodles to the Dutch oven; sprinkle with 1 c. mozzarella, ⅓ c. Parmesan, and half the feta, and about half the remaining sauce. Place the remainder of the rolled noodles on top, and then top with the remaining sauce, and cheeses.

Cover the Dutch oven and bake for about 30 minutes; remove from heat and bake another about 20 to 30 minutes until the cheese is browned on top. Let cool slightly, and enjoy!

You do udon

I’m slowly getting back into the groove of things since being back from vacation. I imagined it would be quicker but exhaustion got the better of me as did the daily grind.

So I decided to start back up with the kind of weeknight dinner that takes little effort and barely follows a recipe. I went with udon noodles with chicken and broccoli, or the more vague “Asian noodles,” which was the not-the-most-culturally-sensitive Google search I did to get the vague idea of ingredients for a sauce.

Udon noodles ingredients.

That blog post, like my own, makes clear that this recipe can be adapted to anyone’s tastes. Don’t like broccoli? Try carrots or spinach or a combination of veggies. Want to add peppers? Go ahead. Don’t want chicken or are vegetarian? Skip it or add tofu.

The same is essentially true of the sauce. I went heavy on the sesame oil because I love it and I have it. I also added a bunch of ginger (from a jar because I was lazy) that wasn’t in the recipe; I just like a lot of ginger. I skipped out on the cilantro to save my sweetie, but I think it would have been pretty tasty as an addition.

That’s to say, you do udon.

To hurry things along, I cooked the udon separately while I prepared the chicken, vegetables, and sauce, but if you’re in no rush and want this to be a one-pot dish, you can cook the noodles in the Dutch oven and leave to drain while preparing the rest of the dish.

I still want more; it disappeared too fast.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 14 oz. udon noodles, cooked to package directions
  • 1 lb. chicken, sliced or chopped
  • 3 c. broccoli (or about one grocery store package with 2 to 3 heads), chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, white and light green parts sliced
  • ⅓ to ½ c. soy sauce (less sodium is good)
  • ¼ c. toasted sesame oil
  • 1 ½ T. ginger, minced (I used the jar stuff)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T. rice vinegar
  • Sambal oelek (chili paste), or Sriracha, to taste (I used about ½ T.)
  • 3 T. sesame seeds
  • Vegetable oil, for sauteing

Directions

Heat the oil in the Dutch oven over medium heat, and saute the chicken until mostly cooked through before adding the broccoli and green onions, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, mix together the soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, garlic, rice vinegar, and sambal oelek or sriracha, and stir to combine.

Once the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are cooked to desired consistency, turn off stove top and add the sauce. Stir to combine and then add the cooked noodles, and continue stirring. Remove from heat and add the sesame seeds, stirring again. Taste and add more soy sauce or sesame oil as desired, and enjoy!

Cooking class in absentia

As I mull over what dishes I ate on my recent Portugal vacation — and there were so many and such good food — that I can make in my Dutch oven, I thought I’d share a recipe from an exotic vacation that I didn’t get to go on. So we can be in the same boat for this week.

The best part about not getting to go on an international trip with my family is that they’ll bring back and share the recipes from their cooking class.

So, when my mom got back from her eastern European vacation last year, I got a PDF of the Hungarian dinner they had one night. Perfect since I’ve always wanted to make chicken paprikash.

Chicken paprikash ingredients.

I’d say it was almost like being there … but obviously not. Still, it was great to be able to try authentic food without leaving the house (other than to get groceries). Mom even was kind enough to buy extra paprika and send me some, so I had plenty on hand for the paprikash and an extra side dish (the Hungarian salsa!) I decided to make.

The paprikash was a delight. It was a little too saucy for me, but the chicken was slightly spicy and extra creamy, as I expected and hoped, and the really ugly dumplings I made based on the recipe to go with the chicken turned out good if incredibly ugly.

All in all, it was a good substitute for being there and a chance to enjoy some authentic Hungarian food without a lot of effort or the airfare. Now, you can too.

So much paprika (and sour cream). So good.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

For the paprikash

  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 4 T. oil
  • 4 t. salt (I probably used less!)
  • 1 t. ground pepper (I probably used more!)
  • 5 t. paprika powder (I split the mixture between smoky and spicy, but you do you)
  • ~10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (the recipe calls for 6 bone-in legs but I like boneless)
  • 12 oz. sour cream
  • 1 T. flour
  • Water

For the nokedli (dumplings)

(or use egg noodles or similar if feeling lazy)

  • ~1 c. flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 t. Salt
  • Water, as necessary (if mixture is dry)

Directions

Heat the oil in the Dutch oven over medium heat, add the onions, and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Take off heat and add salt, pepper, and paprika. Add about ½ c. water to keep the powder from burning. Place mixture back on heat, add the chicken, and pour water on top until just covered. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 1 hour until the chicken is cooked through (can probably check earlier if using boneless — I think I did about 35 minutes). Meanwhile, mix the flour and sour cream together.

Once the chicken is cooked through, stir in the sour cream mixture. Bring to a boil again.

Meanwhile, prepare the dumplings by bringing a separate pot of water to a boil. In a medium bowl, mix together the eggs, flour, and salt, and adding water if necessary until a hard dough forms. Tear dough pieces and place in the boiling water, removing pieces as they float and are cooked through. Serve the chicken (and the sauce) with the nokedli, and enjoy!

Be a doll and make this dal ASAP

Some years ago, my sweetie got this delightful cookbook called “Flavors of India” that includes a ton of delicious, simple, and vegetarian Indian dishes. It was a household staple for years, particularly because it made healthy *and* cheap food that lasted for days.

Then, it got destroyed.

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, it wasn’t lost forever. My sweetie got another copy and we’ve continued to use that one (and keep it safe) for many more years now, and it’s still as much of a treasure.

Dal-dhokali ingredients.

One of my favorites — but one I hadn’t yet made myself — is dal-dhokali, or toor dal (lentils) with chick-pea flour dumplings. It’s also, dare I say, vegan, so it’s mostly healthy (there’s some oil in the dumplings) but still very flavorful.

It’s not necessarily a quick weeknight meal but it is a lot of passive time so put on a movie favorite or catch up on your podcasts while you make this simple dish.

It looks like sludge, it tastes like awesome.

Here’s what I did, following the recipe other than increasing the spice amounts:

Ingredients

For the dal

  • 1 c. toor dal (split pigeon peas), or any dried split pea or lentil if toor dal is hard to find in your area
  • 10 c. water (yes, it sounds like a lot, but it’s works)
  • 1 ½ t. salt
  • 1 t. turmeric
  • 1 t. coriander powder
  • 1 t. cumin
  • ½ T. grated ginger
  • 1 T. tamarind concentrate, or if it’s hard to find in your area, the cookbook suggests using a tablespoon of lemon juice and a teaspoon of sugar in its pace (which given its tart/sour flavor, it seems appropriate)
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 T. oil
  • 1 T. black mustard seeds
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 dried hot peppers, I used chile de arbol
  • Cooked rice, for serving

For the dumplings

  • ¼ c. chick pea flour (besan)
  • ¼ c. whole wheat flour
  • 1 T. oil, plus more for mixing
  • ¼ t. salt
  • 2 pinches cayenne
  • 5 to 7 t. water, more as needed to make dough

Directions

Wash and rinse the dal, rubbing it in your hands to remove the oily coating, while bringing the Dutch oven full of the 10 c. water to a boil with the salt.

Once the water is boiling, add the dal and return to a boil over high heat. Reduce to medium-high, and cook the dal uncovered for 10 minutes. Then, reduce heat and cook, covered, for another 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, make the dumplings. Mix together the two flours with your hands; add the salt, cayenne, and vegetable oil. Crumble the mixture together in your hands. Add 5 t. of water and continue to mix with your hands or a fork until a dough begins to form, adding more water a teaspoon at a time as necessary. Imagine making a pie crust and get it to that consistency. Once ready, set aside.

After the 30 minutes has passed, add the spices, ginger, and tamarind (or substitute) to the dal mixture, and simmer another 10 minutes, uncovered, while you roll out the dumpling dough.

To ready the dough, use oil instead of flour to keep the mixture from sticking. Add a small amount to your hands and knead for a few minutes in your hands until smooth. Add small amounts of oil to the rolling surface and rolling pin, and begin to roll out the dough, again, like a pie crust. Roll until thin like a plate (how the cookbook describes it), about ¼ inch. Use a pizza cutter or sharp knife to cut into 1 inch squares.

Add the dough a few at a time, to ensure they do not stick together, and stir to separate.

Add the tomato, and continue to simmer while preparing the final spice addition.

In a small saucepan or frying pan, heat a tablespoon of oil, and add the mustard seeds, whole cloves, and hot pepper (broken into pieces). As the oil heats, the mustard seeds will pop. Once they stop popping, about 1 to 2 minutes later, remove from heat, and dump the contents (with the oil) to the Dutch oven.

Stir the dal mixture together a few more times, and then cover the Dutch oven once more, and cook for another 20 minutes on low heat, stirring about every 5 minutes so that the dumplings do not stick. Once the dumplings are softened, serve with rice, and enjoy!

Chicken curry a perfect weeknight dinner

Like many of my recipes, this one was given to me by my mother, has been among my staples for years, and has been endlessly adapted until the original recipe is more of a suggestion than a specific direction.

So, I figured this year was the perfect time to write out what I actually do to make chicken curry versus what the recipe I use calls for.

Chicken (and vegetable) curry ingredients.

I started adapting this one from the start out of necessity. I was poor and prefer chicken breasts, but the original calls for 3 pounds of chicken meat. Maybe I could have afforded that if I bought a whole chicken but as it was, I wanted to make a meal that lasted for days, and I was more likely to eat a boneless dinner.

So, I halved the amount of meat and then substituted in vegetables.

Now that I can afford 3 pounds of meat, it still seems excessive. So, I still make it with a mix of meat and vegetables. My list of vegetables changes but I like cauliflower and carrots with curry, even though they’re not usually my favorites. Peas and peppers rounded out the list this time, but anything works.

I also probably end up adding more than 1 ½ lbs. of vegetables because I don’t quite measure what goes in. I just eyeball it, including in the suggested amounts below.

Otherwise, I tweak a few other things from “The Curry Book” recipe my mom Xeroxed many years ago for me to enjoy.

So much curry goodness.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 4 T. unsalted butter (or ghee, if you have on hand)
  • 1 medium onion, halved and sliced
  • 3 T. minced ginger
  • 1 T. minced garlic
  • 1 ½ lb. chicken breast, chopped into bite-size chunks
  • 2 c. cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 c. sugar snap peas (or just frozen peas)
  • 3 T. curry powder
  • ½ T. ground cumin
  • 2 t. ground coriander
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • ⅔ c. plain yogurt
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • Scallions, optional for serving
  • Cilantro, optional for serving

Directions

Heat the Dutch oven on the stove over medium heat, and add the butter. Add the onion, cauliflower, carrot, and bell pepper, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until just starting to soften. Add the chicken and cook until mostly cooked through. Add peas, ginger, and garlic and cook another minute.

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the curry powder, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, yogurt, and lemon juice, and stir until well mixed. Scrape the yogurt mixture into the Dutch oven, and toss to combine.

Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook stirring occasionally, for about 30 to 35 minutes until chicken is cooked through and the flavor has combined. Serve on rice, with scallions or cilantro if desired, and enjoy!

 

Don’t be a drip, make this beef recipe

I don’t often say this, but thank God for air conditioning. I’m cold-blooded by nature so if I’m just sitting and the A/C is on, I’m under a blanket or wrapped in a cardigan.

But this week’s recipe called for the oven to be on for about 5 hours, and I’m pretty grateful that I did not have to heat an already scorching house.

Even though the drip beef I made (based on a Pioneer Woman recipe my sweetie came across) warmed the house for one day, the best part about it is that we didn’t turn on the oven for the next several days as we made our way through the leftovers.

Drip beef ingredients.

The microwave and toaster took care of reheating our many, many drip beef sandwiches.

The Pioneer Woman recipe gave two different ways to make this but there wasn’t a question in my mind that I’d be making the one with pepperoncinis. Even better that it was with loaded with Italian herbs as well.

I did, however, snag the sliced onions from the other recipe and add them to this one. It was not particularly noticeable but I was still glad for the little bit of onion flavor added.

The recipe was really easy, put together in less than 5 minutes, and checked only occasionally over the hours it sat in the oven. The hardest part was using forks to shred the beef, but with the A/C on, for me, it wasn’t too bad to stick my face over the Dutch oven. Besides, if done right, the meat should shred with very little effort.

I’m not usually a big beef person but this was a treat. We finished the 3 pounds we made in a few short days. Amazing.

I wish there were still some left. 🙁

Here’s what I did, tweaking the recipe slightly:

Ingredients

  • 2.5 to 4 lbs. beef chuck roast
  • 4 T. butter
  • 1 onion, halved and thickly sliced
  • 2 c. beef broth
  • 1 T. dried basil
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • 1 T. dried thyme
  • ¾ T. dried rosemary
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 16 oz. jar pepperoncinis, with juices
  • Deli rolls, toasted (for serving)
  • Cheese slices (provolone worked well), optional (for serving)

Directions

Heat the oven to 275 degrees. Meanwhile, over medium heat, melt the butter on the stove and then add the onion slices. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until just starting to brown.

Turn off stovetop. Add the remaining ingredients to the Dutch oven, except the rolls and cheese if using.

Cover and bake in the oven for 5 to 6 hours until the meat is very tender and starting to fall apart. If it’s not yet tender, keep cooking at 30-minute intervals until tender.

Remove from oven and shred meat with two forks, leaving no large chunks. Serve immediately or keep warm on the stovetop until ready to eat, and enjoy as sammies.

Beer + bacon = bueno beans

We’ve had a bag of dried pinto beans sitting on a shelf for a few months, which neither of us now remembers why we bought it.

So, when I thought about making Mexican rice, I figured I may as well come up with a recipe for using those pinto beans.

Borracho beans recipe.

Homemade bean and rice burritos with some extra cotija we also had lying around sounded like a perfect dinner to me.

I just needed the beans recipe. Thankfully, Homesick Texan was right there with three ways to make pinto beans, each building on the recipe before it. Because I always do too much, I of course, opted for the third one that had all the flavors and ingredients, and took the most time.

These beans were not meant to be made for a casual weeknight dinner, but the leftovers definitely will, and have.

I mostly followed the recipe but I decided against buying two different kinds of pork and met in the middle with thick-cut bacon. I also reduced the jalapenos and replaced one with a poblano to keep the spiciness to medium (It probably would have been fine but my way was good for me). I also made an error in recipe-reading so an adequate substitute is provided.

Best beans ever.

Here’s what I did, based on the borracho beans recipe from Homesick Texan:

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. dry pinto beans, soaked overnight
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 lb. thick-cut bacon, divided (I used Beeler’s)
  • ¼ c. jalapeno pickle juice
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 (14 oz.) can diced tomatoes, with the juices (I forgot this ingredient so substituted ½ pint cherry tomatoes and 1 c. vegetable broth)
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded, stemmed, and roughly chopped
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded, stemmed, and roughly chopped
  • 2 chipotles in adobo, chopped
  • 1 c. cilantro
  • 1 (12 oz.) bottle Modelo Negro or similar dark beer

Directions

Chop up all but 4 strips of (uncooked) bacon and add to a Dutch oven on medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and salt, as desired. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Drain the beans and add them to the pot with water to cover by about 2 inches. Bring the pot to a boil.

Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about an hour. (At about a half-hour, I covered partially as I had added too much water, so check water levels and adjust as necessary.)

Meanwhile, cook remaining 4 pieces of bacon. Add the cooked bacon pieces to a blender with tomatoes (or tomatoes and broth, as it were), jalapenos, poblano, chipotles, and cilantro. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Once beans are mostly cooked through, after an hour, add the blended mixture to the pot.

Cook another 20 minutes, covered or uncovered as appropriate to adjust liquid level to your choosing. Add beer about 10 minutes before ready; add jalapeno pickle juices, about 5 minutes before ready, and simmer uncovered.

Let cool slightly and enjoy with more beer, and perhaps some Mexican rice.

How green was my shakshuka

I was looking for another savory breakfast food when I was reminded that for years I’ve thought about making the Middle Eastern egg and sauce dish called shakshuka.

There were no hard-to-find ingredients; it just never quite made the cut when I was looking for something new to try. Until this week.

Green shakshuka ingredients.

My now-beloved Cook It In Your Dutch Oven cookbook even had a recipe all ready for me. Sure, it’s a different take than the traditional — it has a green sauce rather than a red tomato-based one. But that sounded even better. I can always use more greens in my diet.

The recipe turned out fine, if not my favorite. It calls for adding herbs in at the end, though I think adding them to the base sauce and then again at the end would be better — so that more of their flavor seeps into the sauce but also has the fresh zip that their late addition adds. (I should add that my sweetie quite liked the dish so maybe I just don’t appreciate greens as much as I should.)

Other than that, be prepared to buy a lot of Swiss chard, and preferably the kind without red stems if you want it to look vibrant green rather than my brownish-green.

Look at all those beautiful herbs. Noms.

Here’s what I did, roughly following the recipe (though changing some proportions):

Ingredients 

  • 3 bunches Swiss chard, stems removed and reserved and leaves chopped
  • 12 oz. baby spinach
  • ¼ c. olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 t. ground coriander
  • ½ c. vegetable broth
  • 1 c. frozen peas
  • 2 T. lemon juice
  • 8 eggs
  • 4 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 T. chopped dill (I recommend more for sauce)
  • 2 T. fresh mint (I recommend a little more for sauce)
  • 1 t. dried Aleppo pepper, optional (I had on hand but it’s a mild crushed pepper so regular crushed pepper isn’t a good substitute unless you want to add a little spice)

Directions

Chop chard stems to yield 1 cup. Discard the rest or save for another use.

Heat Dutch oven on medium heat. Add 2 T. olive oil. Add the chard stems, onion, and a pinch of salt. Cook until softened and lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and coriander, and cook for about another minute.

Add the chard leaves and spinach (I had to do it in batches so they would wilt down), and cook until wilted but still green, about 3 to 5 minutes. Here I’d recommend adding some herbs for more flavor, to taste. Remove the mixture from heat and add 1 to 1 ½ c. of the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth, about a minute. Stir the blended mix back into the Dutch oven.

Add lemon juice and peas, and stir.

Place back on heat, medium to medium-low. Make 4 indentations in the mix and crack 2 eggs into each indentation. Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper, if using, and more salt as desired. Cover the pot and cook until egg whites are just set, 5 to 10 minutes (You have to keep a close eye on it). Remove from heat and let sit, covered, until the whites are fully set, another 2 to 4 minutes.

Add the herbs, feta, and drizzle with more olive oil.

Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!

Ratatouille any which way

I’ve talked about my love of Ratatouille before, both the movie and the food item. The movie has the message of “Anyone can cook,” which is to say not everyone can do it but that one’s station in life — even as a rat — can’t dictate whether one is a great chef.

Ratatouille ingredients.

A great chef I am not but I take comfort in that, and many other, life lessons offered by the Pixar classic.

As I’ve come to love the French dish almost as much as the move, I’ve also come to realize it’s an appropriate recipe to highlight the movie’s message and theme. The dish is a humble stew that also can be made to be served at the top restaurant in Paris.

If anyone can can cook, ratatouille shows that simple ingredients can make for an impressive meal no matter which way you make it.

I found last year that I loved making this traditional stew-like dish as a tian on a sheet pan. But in making it in my Dutch oven this year, I was reminded that it also works really well in its stew-ish form. While it mirrors a hearty stew, it is still exclusively vegetables and herbs and spices, with a little bit of (OK, a lot of) olive oil, which makes it light even on a summer night. Also, it doesn’t need to cook for hours upon hours. It’s a half hour or so in front of a stove top, not bad in the air-conditioned house.

It’s practically perfect, especially for the upcoming Bastille Day!

So healthy and yet so scrumptious.

Here’s what I did:

Ingredients

  • 5+ T. olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 7 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 large eggplant (1 1/2 to 2 medium), chopped
  • 2 medium zucchinis, chopped
  • 2 medium summer squash, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 T. thyme (the recipes often recommended whole sprigs to be removed; I just used dried)
  • 2 T. dried basil  (I’d prefer fresh but I had some dried on hand)
  • 1 T. dried oregano
  • ½ T. red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 4 to 5 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 T. tomato paste

Directions

Add about 2 T. of oil to a large Dutch oven on medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until beginning to turn translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add another about 2 T. of oil and the eggplant. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 to 10 minutes, until beginning to soften. Add another about 2 T. of oil, the zucchini, summer squash, and bell pepper. Cook, continuing to stir occasionally, for another 5 to 10 minutes until the zucchini and squash are mostly cooked through. Add the tomatoes, herbs and spices, and tomato paste, and cook for another 5 minutes, covered, until all the vegetables are cooked through and the mixture looks stew-ish.

Let cool slightly (it stays hot for awhile), and enjoy with some fancy bread!