Have you ever heard of The Great Courses? They sell pre-recorded college level courses about a variety of wonderful topics ranging from lifestyle to history, physics and more. In January, I received a sale catalog from them, and jumped with both feet into buying some of their courses on DVD. One of them was The Everyday Gourmet: Rediscovering The Lost Art of Cooking. Eh, why not? I could use some refreshers. And it's not like I think I'm a great cook; I've just been able to fake it for the last 40 years or so.
And this course has been terrific.Even when it's something I think I know, I've enjoyed having it presented to me such that I'm certain I've been doing it right for all these decades.
Lesson 3 Was about essential kitchen tools from pots to shears. And what did we cook in that lesson? Ratatouille. I've heard of this for years, never had it, and never thought of making it. But somehow, after seeing this lesson, I had to make it. My version is a little different from the classical version, in that I don't eat peppers. And this guy doesn't give actual measurements, because he doesn't know how much you want to cook, so he's my kind of cook. Here's my version, with my usual slipshod approximate measurements.
Olive Oil (keep the bottle out; you'll need plenty)
1 onion, diced
1 eggplant, diced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes or tomato concasse*
4 cloves garlic
1 green zucchini
2 yellow squash
thyme and/or oregano, to taste
liquid from tomatoes, vegetable or chicken stock
ground black pepper.
Using a large flat bottomed pan, pour olive oil in the bottom and saute the onion over medium heat until soft. Add the eggplant, and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often, and adding olive oil to keep the pan from drying out. The chef instructor says "eggplant is very thirsty, so add more oil for it to absorb." Add the tomato paste, stir it around and cook until it turns to brick red, then add the tomatoes, quartered. Turn the heat down a little. Peel the garlic and crush it with the flat of the knife, then coarsely chop it and add it to the pan. Add the zucchini and yellow squash (and peppers, if you must, but not in my house, thank you) and herbs (fresh or dried, to taste), and liquid - just enough so the veggies won't stick and burn. You might need to add more liquid as it cooks. Simmer about 20 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste. When the eggplant is very tender, it's ready to serve. Add more fresh herbs to the top, if you're of a mind to do so, or just serve. I served it with chicken breast and French bread, and even my veggie-hating Patrick had to admit it was good. His vegetarian girlfriend raved about it for about 3 days. And I made it again 2 weeks later, that's how good it was.
For tomato concassee:
Cut out the stem. Cut a cross in the skin at the opposite end. Drop them into a pan of boiling water. The skin will start to peel away pretty quickly - in 15 to 30 seconds in my experience. Take them out, drop them into ice water so they cool, and peel away the skin. Then cut them in half and squeeze out the seeds. Save the water to add to the ratatouille. I did this the first time, then just used canned tomatoes the second time. It was easier, and didn't taste any different. Just sayin'.
And, for the record, in addition to learning to cook, I'm also going to learn to draw, play the piano, speak French, take pictures, paint, improve my vocabulary, and brush up on some history. Oh, and math. Don't hold your breath waiting; I'm not that ambitious. But it's nice to know all these options are there when I need to keep busy.
Happy weekending, everyone!