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I was in a restaurant in beautiful St. Maarten when a waiter presented the table with a beautiful ratatouille served in timbales. It was delicious-and set me to thinking about adapting the usual ratatouille, a vegetable stew, to make it less stew-y. Here’s the result, a vibrant, fragrant, hash-every vegetable retains its distinctive texture as well as flavor-that makes a perfect meal served with chicken, fish or meat. You can serve it hot or at room temperature. Serves 10 to 12 Convert It – To make this a dairy main dish, add a 10-ounce can of drained and rinsed chick peas and crumbled feta. Or, for a quick moussaka-like dish, toss the hash with ground, sauteed lamb.
Geila’s Tips – Check the bottom of the eggplants you buy. If the pip there is round, the plant is female, if long, male. Male eggplants have fewer seeds.
3 pounds (about 2 medium) eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes.
4 tablespoons kosher salt, plus more
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 pound zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
2 large onions, sliced thin
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 garlic cloves, put through a garlic press
2 roasted red bell peppers * cut into 1/4 inch dice
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
One 12-ounce can plum tomatoes with their juice
3 tablespoons chopped basil
Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cover 2 medium cookie sheets with foil.
Place the eggplant in a colander in the sink and roast with 2 tablespoons salt. Top with a plate and a weight, such as as a large can or wine bottle. Let the eggplant drain for 30 minutes rinse and dry it, and transfer to a cookie sheet. Drizzle over 3 tablespoons olive oil.
Place the zucchini on the second cookie sheet, toss with 2 tablespoons salt and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Bake the zucchini and the eggplant until cooked through, about 20 minutes, stirring both after 10 minutes to prevent sticking. Set both aside.
In a large skillet, heat the grapeseed oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with salt and saute, stirring, until translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Push the onions to the side of the pan, add the tomato paste to the center, and cook until the the paste begins to bubble, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute the mixture until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the bell peppers, stir, and add the vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, if using, and tomatoes with half their juice. and simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 4 minutes. Add the eggplant, zucchini and basil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring often, until the flavors have blended about 10 minutes. If the mixture seems too dry, add more of the tomato juice and simmer 4 to 5 minutes more. Adjest the seasoning, if necessary, transfer to plates, and serve.
* 2 roasted bell peppers
On a burner or under the broiler, roast the peppers until the skin is uniformly charred. Transfer to to a paper bagor a bowl. Close the bag or cover the bowl with foil, a dish towel or plastic wrap. Let the peppers steam until they become cool enough to handle. Remove the stems, peel and seeds and cut the peppers into 1 to 1 1/2 inch dice. Reserve any juice
Everyone loves cold sesame noodles, an addictively delicious meal-in-one that also keeps well. Here’s my version, which features fried tofu for textural contrast. That is a dish that kosher cooks couldn’t make until chilli and rice wine vinegar became part of the kosher pantry. I serve this a lot in the summer-and the rest of the year, too.
Convert It – To make this a meat dish, add diced grilled or poached chicken in place of the tofu and substitute chicken stock for the water.
1/4 cup sesame paste (tahini)
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon chili oil, to taste
2 tablespoons sugar
One 14-ounce package firm tofu
2 cups fresh broccoli florets, or frozen and defrosted under hot tap water
3 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
3/4 pound linguine
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, for garnish
In a pint measuring cup or immersion blender container, combine the sauce ingredients and 3 tablespoons of water and using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Alernately, use a stand blender. Transfer to a large bowl.
Place a clean dishcloth on a work surface. Place the tofu on top of the towel and fold the towel to enclose it. Top the tofu with a plate and add a weight, such as a heavy can. Allow the tofu to drain for 30 minute. Cut the tofu into 1-inch dice and set aside.
If using fresh broccoli, bring abundant salted water to a boil. Add the broccoli and blanch until deeply colored and slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Remove the broccoli with a large strainer and run under cold tap water. drain and transfer to a large bowl.
In a large skillet, heat the the oil-over premium high heat. Add the tofu and saute, stirring until golden, about 4 minutes. Transfer the tofu to paper towels to drain. Set aside.
Bring fresh abundant salad water to a boil in a large pot. Add the linguine, and cook until al dente, following package directions. Drain the pasta, transfer to the bowl with the broccoli and sauce, and toss. Add the tofu, toss and let cool to room temperature before stirring.
I love this delectable soup, which is full of the deep flavors of roasted eggplant and sweet peppers. It’s also a great example of three-way cooking – a single dish you can easily modify to make something that works for any menu. The option to finish thickening the soup with oil rather than with butter or a butter-based roux is key to its versatility. I offer this with fricos – quickly prepared cheese wafers – but you can garnish it with grated parmesan and fresh ricotta instead.
Serves 10 to 12
Convert It – To make this into a meat dish, substitute chicken stock for the vegetable stock and drizzle each serving with Balsamic Gastrique.* For a parve version, substitute extra-virgin olive oil for the butter and finish with drops of balsamic vinegar, Balsamic Gastrique or basil leaves.
Geila’s Tip – You can make the fricos ahead of time and store them in an airtight container. They’re also delicious served with drinks.
4 medium to large eggplants (4 to 5 pounds)
6 medium red, yellow or orange bell peppers
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons grapeseed or canola oil
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
4 to 6 large garlic cloves, to taste, minced
one 2-ounce can tomato paste
3 quarts vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 or 4 basil leaves
1 cup shreded Parmesan, Cheddar, Swish or other hard cheese
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon cayenne peppers, or to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line 1 or 2 medium cookie sheets, depending on eggplant size, with foil and spray lightly with nonstick cooking spray or grease lightly with vegetable oil.
Remove any stems from the eggplant and halve them lengthwise. With a fork, prick the skin-side of the eggplant all over. Sprinkle the cut sides with salt, place the eggplants skin-side up on the sheet, and bake until wrinkled and soft, about 40 minutes. Let cool slightly then remove the skin and seeds with your fingers. (If removing the seeds is difficult, work them out under cold running water). Chop the eggplant into large chunks.
On a burner or under the broiler, roast the peppers until the skin is uniformly charred. Transfer to to a paper bagor a bowl. Close the bag or cover the bowl with foil, a dish towel or plastic wrap. Let the peppers steam until they become cool enough to handle. Remove the stems, peel and seeds and cut the peppers into 1 to 1 1/2 inch dice. Reserve any juice.
In a heavy soup pot, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté just until translucent, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 1 to 2 minutes more. Stir the peppers, eggplant, tomato paste, and stock. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer for 1 hour.
Using a hand blender (or carefully transferring to a stand blender or food processor in batches), purée the soup. If too thick add more stock.
To make the fricos, combine the ingredients in a small bowl and mix lightly until blended. Transfer to a colander and shake to remove excess flour and any small bits of cheese.
Heat a medium non-stick skillet or griddle over medium heat. Add a small handful of the frico mixture. Spread with your fingers to make a 3 inch round. When the cheese has melted and the edges of the frico are slightly colored, turn carefully with a spatula and cook until the bottom is colored, abou 30 seconds. Remove and drape the frico, colored side up. over a rolling pin. Let cool aand firm. Rep[eat with the remaining mixture.
Season the soup with salt and pepper, transfer to serving bowls and garnish with the basil. Serve with the fricos.
* Balsamic Gastrique (page 26)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
in a small glass bowl, combine the sugar and vinegar. Microwave at full power for 30 seconds, or until the liquid has boiled and becomes syrupy. Alternatively, combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes. Let cool.