ChatterRecipe of the Month September 2011
Photo by Louisa J. Curtis
This month, I wanted to bring you a “healthy” recipe because Virgo is the sign associated not only with the harvest, but also with eating healthy foods in general. Many of them are vegetarians or vegans, for example, so I was toying between a few of my favorite vegetarian dishes, from Indian Spiced Vegetables (appropriate not only because of the vegetables but also reminds us of the Spiritual side of Virgo that is connected with the Yogi), then I thought about a delicious Caponata from Italy, or even a Gazpacho from Spain, but finally I settled on Ratatouille from France! When I lived in Paris, I made a lot of this delicious eggplant and vegetable stew, which can be served either hot or cold. In fact, I was a vegetarian at the time, and ironically, the city of Paris is ruled by the sign of, yes, you guessed it, Virgo.
2 large Zucchini (Courgette)
2 medium to large Eggplant (Aubergine)
5-6 large Tomatoes
I large Green Pepper (Orange or Yellow)
I large Red Pepper
I large Onion
2 cloves Garlic
6 tablespoons Olive Oil
Salt & Black Pepper
Before we begin, there is no hard and fast rule with this sort of a dish, so if you prefer Orange or Yellow Peppers to Green (which I do) that’s fine, and if you want to use more Onion or less Eggplant, that’s fine too! We’re basically making a “Mediterranean Eggplant & Vegetable Stew” and this particular version comes from my favorite old Reader’s Digest cookery book. Begin by cutting the ends off the Zucchini and Eggplant, wash well and then cut into large slices or wedges. Place them in a large colander with a little Salt and cover with a plate. You can also line the colander with some paper towel to help absorb the excess moisture. Place a heavy pan on top of the plate and let this sit for at least an hour. While that’s doing its thing, prepare the remaining vegetables. This recipe suggests peeling the Tomatoes and one of the best ways to do that is to first of all score an X on the bottom of each tomato with a small knife, then put them in a pan of boiling water for about 30 seconds, and then pop them into a bowl of iced water right away. You will then be able to peel the skins away easily before roughly chopping them. Wash the Peppers and remove the stems, seeds & white veins. Then chop the Peppers, as well as the Onion and Garlic– none of this has to be small & dainty, it should be rough-chopped.
Heat the Olive Oil in a large pan and fry the Onion and Garlic for about 5 minutes over low heat until transparent. Add the Peppers and cook for about another 10 minutes, then add the remaining ingredients and season with Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper to taste (careful with the Salt as you will have used some to drain the liquid from the Eggplant and Zucchini). Cover the pan with a lid and cook over low heat for about 35 more minutes, stirring from time to time and adjusting the seasoning, if necessary. Garnish with lots of fresh chopped Parsley. As I said, this dish is delicious served either hot or cold, as an appetizer or a side dish and the flavors continue to improve the next day – if there’s any left! When I was in Paris I would eat a bowl of this with some cheese and a crusty baguette. And years ago I used to work at a French restaurant and we served Ratatouille au Gratin(with grilled Cheese on top) as a side dish (delicious!) We even experimented by making Ratatouille Quiche, which was surprisingly tasty. Just add some of the vegetable mixture to your Milk, Cream & Eggs and then pour into the Piecrust and bake!