Warfare Ratatouille

'Tis the time of the season: everywhere farmers' markets are showing off their squash, eggplant, peppers and tomatoes.  So what does that mean? Why ratatouille, of course.  Ironic because it's a peasant dish, stick-to-the ribs food, and evokes cold winter nights. But screw it: the time is now, the produce is at its peak, you can serve it cold, and DAMMIT THIS RECIPE IS INSANE!!!!!!!!!!!! My friend Bridget found it on Epicurious and sent it to me. The author, Francis Lam, coined it "Weapons-Grade Ratatouille" and rightly so. You can win a war with this dish. My friend Becky challenged me to make it the way Remy does in Disney's Ratatouille. If only I had that kind of patience, not to mention a mandoline. So this is going to be vegetable mess style. And I've decided that the next party I throw is going to be one giant pot of this ratatouille, a couple giant rosemary focaccias, and big bottles of wine. To be consumed while standing around in the kitchen. I cannot wait.

Transcribing the recipe as it was written, with my modifications in italics

Weapons-Grade Ratatouille

The point of this recipe isn't to follow it slavishly. If you want more of this, got less of that, go for it. The only thing I insist you do is block off some time on your calendar and hang out with your vegetables for an afternoon—the low, slow cooking is what makes it knock your momma's bonnet off.

Makes nearly half a gallon, of very intensely flavored stuff

  • 3 shallots and 1 large onion, minced (I didn't have shallots so I used 1 medium yellow onion, 1 medium red onion, and 4 big cloves of garlic, all minced)
  • ½ cup of extra-virgin olive oil. Yes, that much. Summertime is living it up time.
  • A couple more glugs of olive oil. Hell, just keep the bottle handy. (I love Francis)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 large red peppers, puréed in the food processor (I didn't have peppers but I had an unopened jar of roasted red peppers so I threw that in the food processor)
  • 4 pounds of very good regular field tomatoes, or fancy heirlooms if you're rich. Just make sure they're the kind you eat a piece of ... and then involuntarily eat another piece of a minute later. Oh, and purée them in the food processor too. (I had no fresh tomatoes so I used a can of San Marzano whole tomatoes, drained and thrown in the food processor)
  • 2½ pounds of summer squash and zucchini, ½-inch dice (I don't weigh produce, I just used 2 green zucchini, 1 yellow squash)
  • 1½ pounds of eggplant, diced into ½-inch cubes (A medium-sized eggplant...you know, about...that....big.  Right.)
  • Thyme and basil to taste

Cook shallot and onion (or garlic) in the ½ cup of olive oil over low heat in heavy pot so that they soften and give up their liquid. Stir; don't let them brown, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cut up your other vegetables while you're doing this.

Once the onion mixture is pale gold and sticky, add the puréed red pepper. Red peppers have a ton of water, let it cook down, stirring to make sure nothing gets too caramelized and burned. Then you'll have a rich, rusty jam.

To said jam add your puréed tomatoes. Bring it to a boil, and turn the heat way down to let that baby snooze off all its liquid. Season lightly with salt and pepper. You're concentrating sugar and tartness, to be umami-oooo-Mommy.

Around this time, heat oven to 450. Toss the zucchini with salt, pepper and olive oil.  Roast hard in one layer on a baking tray. Check after 15 minutes:  when you get nice browning underneath, take the tray out. Cool a bit before putting roasted squash in a big bowl. Repeat with the eggplant. 

(I confess I roasted everything at once)

Keep cooking down your onion-pepper-tomato jam. You'll know it's ready when it gives oil back up. Chop up some thyme and basil and stir it in. Carefully combine the tomato base with the roasted vegetables.


Stick a spoon into it and feed it to people you love. Then wrap it up tightly and let it sit in the fridge for a day; it'll be even better tomorrow—the flavors meld, the herbs work their way through the whole thing. Just let it come back to room temperature when you serve it to your favorite people, maybe with some cheese and bread, and try not to break too much furniture.

Keeps in fridge 3-4 days and freezes well.

And all right, Becky, here's Remy's version:

Meal in a Ziplock Bag: Fish Bake

That's a rather wordy title.  I was going for something catchy like D**k In a Box but it....um... Hey, look, I learned how to expand what's called the "Kitchen Sink" in Wordpress, which lets you change your font color, among other things!!

Sorry, let's just start over.

Score another Meatless Monday with this quick and easy Meal in a Ziplock Bag!

Kitchen Sink Fish Bake

  • White fish filets of your choice - cod, tilapia, roughy.  If frozen, thaw completely in fridge or in cold water.
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Grated zest of 1 lemon, and juice squeezed from said lemon.
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 pint grape tomatoes, rinsed and left whole (I only had 1/2 pint, I wish I'd had more, you can never have too many roasted grape tomatoes)
  • 1/2 bag frozen green peas.  Not necessary to thaw but swish them under some cold water in a colander
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons seasoned breadcrumbs (optional)

Put all ingredients except breadcrumbs in a ziplock bag, close bag, and "moosh" them around until evenly coated with marinade.  Leave alone for anywhere from 20 minutes to a couple hours, but if it's really hours then put the bag back into the fridge.

Preheat oven to 375.  Spread fish and veggies onto a baking sheet, sprinkle with breadcrumbs.  Bake 10-12 minutes until filets are opaque.

You can substitute lime for lemon, cilantro for parsley, and swap out any of the veggies as long as they are something that doesn't need a lot of roasting time - thin sliced zucchini, asparagus spears, small green beans, etc.

Chana Masala

So over vacation I fell in love with Molly Wizenburg, with Orangette, and with A Homemade Life:  Stories and Recipes from my Kitchen Table.  I may be late to this party, but so be it.  She is my new girl crush and this book is, as we speak, being shipped to me to keep for my very own because this library copy for 3 weeks just isn't going to cut it.  This is the world's most perfect book.  This book was written for me.  And I'm afraid I'm going to be a bit of a pain in the ass about it, but so be it. Let's dive right in, shallllllll we?

While not a vegetarian herself, Molly confesses to consistently falling in love with them ("My love is for herbivores only"), and now she is married to one.  So her book includes lots and lots of delicious-sounding recipes for salads and meatless meals.  Including her husband Brandon's recipe for chana masala.

For the uninitiated, chana masala is an Indian dish of chick peas and tomatoes, heavily and beautifully seasoned.   It's fantastic by itself with hunks of pita or naan, or served over rice, which is how I did it tonight.

You can read the full post and story here (and please do go to her blog and if you can, get a copy A Homemade Life because she's just a wonderful, wonderful writer).  But if you want to cut to the chase, let's just cook.

Chana Masala, from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenburg

  • Good-quality olive oil or coconut oil (coconut oil in this dish is KILLER)
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (I did not have seeds, I used 1/2 tsp of ground cumin)
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ¼ tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp garam masala (you can buy this pre-made in the spice aisle, or make your own)
  • 3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed (I did have these because cardamom is my favoritest spice ever, but you could skip the pods as there is cardamom in the garam masala)
  • 1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • 1 Tbs cilantro leaves, roughly torn, plus more for garnish (I had no cilantro and used parsley)
  • A pinch of cayenne, or to taste
  • 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 6-8 Tbs plain whole-milk yogurt, optional
  • A few lemon wedges, optional

1.  Heat oil in saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion, and cook, stirring frequently, until it is deeply caramelized and even charred in some spots. Be patient. The more color, the more full-flavored the final dish will be.

2.  Reduce the heat to low. Add the garlic, cumin seeds, coriander, ginger, garam masala, and cardamom pods, and fry them, stirring constantly, until fragrant and toasty, about 30 seconds. Add ¼ cup water, and stir to scrape up any brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until the water has evaporated away completely. Pour in the juice from can of tomatoes, followed by the tomatoes themselves, using your hands to break them apart as you add them; alternatively, add them whole and crush them in the pot with a potato masher. Add the salt.

3.  Raise the heat to medium, and bring the pot to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, add the cilantro and cayenne, and simmer the sauce gently, stirring occasionally, until it reduces a bit and begins to thicken. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Add the chickpeas, stirring well, and cook over low heat for about five minutes. Add 2 Tbs water, and cook for another five minutes. Add another 2 Tbs water, and cook until the water is absorbed, a few minutes more. This process of adding and cooking off water helps to concentrate the sauce’s flavor and makes the chickpeas more tender and toothsome. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary.

You can stir the yogurt into the chana masala before serving, or leave it out and serve with a squeeze of lemon.  However you serve it, do so with a sprinkle of cilantro/parsley and a pinch or two of the garam masala.

Served over coconut rice, this was pass-out delicious and so easy to make.  Plus your house smells amazing while it's cooking.  Jeeps ate two huge bowls and has called dibs on the leftovers for tomorrow (Molly says it's even better the second or third day).

Stacey and the Roasted Broccoli

Get used to the name Stacey. She is Stacey of StaceySnacksOnline. Her amazing food blog upped my cooking game like nothing else. I had no idea you could do so much with cauliflower, but suddenly I was buying a head every other week and roasting it with red onions and grapes (click it, try it, it's insane). Everything I have made from her blog has been easy and delicious. No strikeouts. So click here for her recipe for roasted shrimp and broccoli. Roasted broccoli, have you tried it? It's killer. Stacey said she made it once for her husband and thereafter he wanted it no other way. I made it once for JP and now we're both addicted. I served the shrimp and broccoli over coconut rice and it was fantastic.


The very next night, JP asked for roasted broccoli again. So I made it but this time tried it with salmon. We get great boneless salmon steaks from Horizon Foods and I usually broil them and often for too long, resulting in somewhat dry salmon. This time, in following the recipe, the broccoli roasted first for 10 minutes at 425. Then I put the salmon on the hot baking sheet and put it in the oven for five minutes. Perfection. Perfectly perfect salmon, I was so happy. I tried the technique again to make sure it wasn't a fluke but no, it works perfectly. So regardless of the vegetable, here's how salmon goes down at our house:

Preheat oven to 425 with the baking sheet in the oven

Drizzle salmon steaks or fillets with olive oil, brown sugar and dill.

When oven reaches 425, take out tray, put salmon on it, and put back in the oven for 5 minutes.



Pulled Pork: A Novel

My seester Nini has turned me on to slow-cooking in general and pulled pork in particular. I mean, to quote the Contessa, how easy is this: one pork butt, sauce of your choice, cover, leave for 8 hours, come back to indescribable yumminess.

I still don't have a slow cooker. After this grandiose kitchen renovation and the Wolf Stove of my dreams (yes, I love you darling, you complete me) I feel guilty getting a slow-cooker (no, no, Wolfie, not yet, I promise). I'm sure the slow cooker is much more energy efficient BUT ANYWAY, back to the novel...

JP took the kids skiing the other day, and pork butt (can anyone write that with a straight face?) was on sale at Hannaford's. I picked one up, in keeping with this horrible cold weather and snow and all the comfort food I've been making to conquer it. Pulled pork seemed the perfect thing for après-ski

I Googled around for conventional oven techniques and sauce, mixed and matched a little, and came up with this:

Pulled Pork à la Wolfie

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/2 C ketchup
  • 1/3 C cider vinegar
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp worcestershire sauce (my favorite condiment to say)
  • 1 Tbsp yellow mustard
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 325. Throw pork butt into Le Creuset dutch oven (Wolfie is my man but Madame Le Creuset is my bitch). Mix all ingredients, slather all over butt (the pork, not yours). Cover, put into oven. Go away for at least 3 hours and soon the house will become permeated with the most awesome, tangy, barbecue-y smell in creation. My son came in the door after skiing and said "Mommy, I want to eat the AIR!"

Ideally a longer, slower cooking time for pulled pork is best because you essentially want the meat to fall off the bone and you should be able to shred it with two plastic forks. 3 hours at 325 was totally adequate. I needed regular forks to shred it but it tasted awesome. But after you take it out and get rid of the bone, spoon as much fat as you can off the sauce, and cut the real fatty bits off the meat before you shred it. Then mix it all back in with the sauce and let it sit back in the cooker or on the stovetop for about 10 minutes. I added a splash of apple cider for no reason, it just seemed like a good idea.

I'm sure everyone has their own idea of fixin's for pulled pork. I like to serve it with potato rolls, cole slaw and sweet potato fries. I also like a few bread-and-butter pickles on my sammich. And beer of course is great with this meal, although a Dr. Pepper would be a treat as well. I'm quite partial to Dr. Pepper.