Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tomato Soup with Two Fennels

I won’t bore you with the details but I had to have a dental procedure…not just a filing, a root canal or a cap, no, not me, when I do something I do it up real good!  This was a real, card-carrying dental surgical procedure, complete with swelling, a little pain and stitches, 14 of them!  I am restricted to “easily chewed foods, such as eggs, soup, etc…” for a couple of days, along with 9 other little gems of “Information Following Surgery” that included what to do in the event of possible bruising.  I look like I was in a fight, like a Million Dollar Baby, minus the million dollars.

That was a long-winded and perhaps TMI introduction as to why I made Tomato Soup with Two Fennels, my latest undertaking from A Homemade Life, for dinner on Wednesday night.

For those of you not familiar with fennel's scientific classification, it is a member of the Umbellifereae family and is a kissing-cousin of parsley, carrots, dill and coriander. If is often used in Italian cooking and adds a crunchy texture and slightly sweet flavor to any dish.  Similar to the texture of celery and very aromatic, fennel has a licorice-like taste and is often confused with anise.  The fennel bulb is an excellent source of vitamin C and great source of fiber and potassium.

A little while ago, The Pioneer Woman hosted a giveaway for a le creuset enameled cast iron casserole.  PW is so generous…have you ever noticed how generous she is? Anyway, I entered, but didn’t win.  I didn’t win the fabulous "Old Gringo" cowboy boots either!
Since the yellow-pot-luck evaded me, I decided to purchase a lovely (and cheaper) 6 quart understudy from The Martha Stewart Collection.  You know I love Martha, but I would have loved to have won that le creuset model.  Regardless, I ordered the Martha version from Macy’s and it arrived just in time for me to make this soup! PW....if you read this post, which I'm fairly certain you will not, and decide to award another as a consolation prize, I'm in....or maybe the boots...size 7.

Tomato Soup with Two Fennels
From: A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg

3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced (I used a Vidalia onion)
2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed, quartered from root to stalk and thinly sliced
4 medium garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon fresh marjoram leaves, chopped (my addition, just because I had them handy)
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 28-oz cans of whole, peel tomatoes (I used San Marzano)
¾ teaspoon sea salt
Sugar, to taste (I used brown sugar, about 2 teaspoons)
Red wine vinegar, just a splash
French baguette, sliced and toasted
Goat cheese
Olive oil to drizzle

In a large pot or Dutch oven, warm the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and fennel and cook, stirring occasionally until the onion starts to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook, stirring frequently until the onion is translucent and very soft, 5-8 minutes more.  Add the thyme and fennel seeds and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  

Pour the juice from the tomatoes until the pot and stir the mixture.  With your hands, crush the whole tomatoes into small chunks that still remain in the can and add to the pot.  Fill one empty can with cold water and add that and bring the mixture to a boil.  Adjust the heat to a gentle simmer and cook, uncovered for about 45-60 minutes.

The soup is ready when the fennel is tender and the soup tastes like a good soup, not like raw tomatoes.  Add salt and sugar to taste and a splash of vinegar.  To serve, spoon into a bowl, drizzle on some olive oil, and top with a toasted baguette slice slathered with goat cheese.

We also had a delicious berry cobbler that I completely forgot to take a photo of, and istened to Sarah Vaughan and Steve Earle radio on Pandora...a lovely evening, even if I looked like I was in a brawl. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Yogurt Cake with Lemon

Continuing my romp through the recipes in the book “A Homemade Life” I decided to try the French Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon since it was my turn to bring dessert this past Wednesday.

My little tour of this book’s recipes may seem like I borrowed an idea from a little reminiscent of “Julie & Julia” but my take IS a little different…I won’t try every recipe, just those that either sound really, really good or those that evoke a sweet memory for me, like this one.

I was in heaven when we visited Limone, Italy, mainly because I love Italy but also because anything citrus is pure bliss for me.  Growing up, I loved Love’s Fresh Lemon (anyone else remember that?) and to this day I still prefer a key lime or lemon meringue pie for my birthday celebration over a traditional confection.

Lake Garda flows from the rocky cliffs of the Alps and Limone is a picturesque town at the north end of the lake. While there, we strolled along the promenade, lunched at one of the many waterfront cafes (I can still taste that pizza topped with fresh arugula) and sipped Limoncello (see photos below).  We also visited an old lemon grove, Limonaia del Castèl, an olive oil mill, and a 16th century chapel, Chiesa San Rocco.

One day, I will return to heaven, but until then, this recipe brought the memory of our visit to Limone instantly back.  France, however, is the inspiration for this cake, Gâteau au Citron in French.  This recipe was first posted on Orangette (Molly Wizenberg’s blog) in August 2004 and that post circuitously brought Molly and her husband together…a very sweet story.    

The recipe for this cake calls for two glazes.  I opted to make just one – “the lemony syrup that soaks into the still-warm cake” – and then topped each slice with a dollop of creamy yogurt and some fresh blueberries.  This moist and luscious cake is not too sweet and the lemon softly whispers “yes, I’m here” to your taste buds.  Perfect with a cup of tea…I am still enjoying little slivers of this heaven.

French-Style Yogurt Cake with Lemon
A Homemade Life

For the cake:
1½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
½ cup well-stirred plain WHOLE milk yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
½ cup vegetable oil

For the syrup:
¼ cup powdered sugar, sifted
¼ cup lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350°.  Grease a 9-inch round cake pan with butter or cooking spray and line the bottom with parchment paper…grease the paper too.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the lemon zest and incorporate well. 

In a separate large bowl, combine the yogurt, sugar, and eggs, and mix well.  Add the flour mixture and incorporate well.  Add the oil and stir well.  The author says that “is will look like a horrible, oily mess, but keep going…”  Your reward will be a lovely, velvety pale yellow batter that you will pour into the prepared pan.  

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool the cake on a wire rack for 15 minutes then run a thin knife around the edge of the pan.  Invert the cake on a serving dish and remove the parchment paper.  Whisk together the syrup ingredients and spoon the syrup over the still-warm cake, letting it run down the sides.

I served slices with a dollop of left-over yogurt and some fresh berries or you can eat it without anything else at all…it’s that good, especially with a cup of tea.
Arugula Pizza

Lemon tile as you enter Limone
Inside the lovely town of Limone

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Chicken Tikka Masala

Can I tell you why I love Cooks Illustrated magazine? 
First, the instruction illustrations are very useful. Additionlly, on the back of every issue is a beautiful drawing the of several different varieties of a fruit or vegetable.  Seriously, they are lovely enough to frame.

Second, in their Quick Tips section, they publish nifty reader cooking hints to simplify complicated or annoying cooking activities.  For instance….

Use an apple slicer to chop nuts.

Use a cork screw to hook the pit of an open avocado.

Use a baby carrot to scroll through computer screen recipes while cooking (to keep your dirty hands on the screen).

People are so resourceful.  And creative.

Third, they offer versions of recipes to make an intimidating dish more manageable.

Like the Chicken Tikka Masala Architect made for our Wednesday night dinner.

Growing up, if someone would have said to me “would you like some Chicken Tikka Masala” I would have asked if it involved a meatball.  Further, if I would have asked my mother or grandmother to make Chicken Tikka Masala, they would have sent me directly to Saint Francis Xavier Church to be sprinkled with Holy Water because 1) it’s not Italian and 2) it’s not Irish. 

Turns out, Chicken Tikka Masala may not be traditionally Indian either.  Chicken Tikka is of course, purely Indian with its yummy bits of chicken rubbed with Indian spices baked to perfection in a tandoor oven. But, as the “story” goes, the Masala part was introduced by a British chef who wanted to make the Chicken Tikka less dry, so he incorporated a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup and some yogurt…hence the Masala part.  This tale sounds a little dicey to me, but that’s the story on the Internet and you know “they can’t say anything on the Internet that isn’t true.”  At least that’s what the State Farm commercial says.

Architect’s version of Chicken Tikka Masala was delicious.  Chicken breasts are flavored with traditional Indian spices – cumin, coriander, cayenne – that completely bewitch the senses.   Once broiled to perfection, the chicken is combined with a creamy, yet spicy, tomato-yogurt sauce.  Pure bliss on a plate.

Chicken Tikka Masala
Cooks Illustrated

For the Chicken Tikka
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon table salt
2 lbs. boneless chicken breasts
1 cup plain WHOLE MILK yogurt

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
(Tip…if you put fresh ginger in the freezer for an hour or two, it will be easier to grate because it will be less stringy)

For the Masala Sauce
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 serrano chile, ribs and seeds removed, minced
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
I Tablespoon garam masala
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes (San Marzano are so tasty)
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
¼ cup of fresh chopped cilantro leaves

To prepare the chicken:  Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt in a small bowl.  Sprinkle both sides of the chicken with spice mixture, pressing gently so the spices adhere.  Place chicken on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.  In a large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger; set aside.

To prepare the sauce:  Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering.  Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden,  8-10 minutes.  Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala; cook stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes.  Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, salt; bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 15 mintues, stirring occasionally.  Stir in cream and return to simmer.  Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.

While the sauce simmers, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (about 6 inches form heating element) and heat broiler.  Using tongs, dip chicken into the yogurt mixture and arrange on a wire rack in a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan.  Discard excess yogurt mixture.  Broil chicken until the thickest parts are fully cooked and the chicken is slightly charred in spots, about 15-18 minutes, flipping halfway through.  I suppose you could also grill the chicken.  

Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes, then cut in bite size chunks and stir into the warm sauce.  Stir in cilantro.  Serve topped on rice.

As usual, we had a delicious salad served in the traveling salad bowl, a nice bottle of red wine and a Lemon Yogurt Cake for dessert...more on that later.  We also watched a movie....

Monday, February 18, 2013

Eggplant Parmesan

It was Foodie’s turn to cook this past Wednesday, and she made a different dish using eggplant, Eggplant Parmesan.  This recipe is quite light but packs just as much flavor and satisfaction as its traditional, somewhat heartier counterpart.

Much like the ratatouille recipe I made a few weeks ago, the eggplant is first baked, not fried.  Not only does this lighten it up calorie wise, but it also makes the eggplant a bit crispy, not soggy, which adds to the texture complexity of the dish.  The cheeses satisfy the creamy and the breadcrumbs kick in the crunchy.  The sauce used in this dish calls for a splash of vinegar, no doubt to boost the acidity of the tomatoes and rouse the flavor.

This version  of eggplant parmesan is very, very good.  A must try.  The basic tomato sauce cooks up in no time and served topped on pasta, along with a nice salad and a little red wine, you’ve got yourself a feast!  A little further down, you’ll find a recipe for an easy but fancy-schmancy dessert recipe for Crème Caramel.

Eggplant Parmesan 
Adapted from:  Jamie Oliver’s Italy

3 large firm eggplants (do not peel!)
Olive oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 heaping tsp. dried oregano, plus more for the breadcrumbs
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
One handful of basil or marjoram leaves or both mixed
1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 5-ounce ball of fresh mozzarella cheese
1 cup of dried breadcrumbs (Foodie used sourdough bread to make the breadcrumbs)

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Brush both sides of eggplant slices with oil, and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake 10 to 15 minutes per side until both sides are lightly browned. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees.
2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and add onion. Sauté until soft, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and dried oregano and sauté another 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and their juices, breaking up whole tomatoes with your hands. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes.
3. Add vinegar, basil/marjoram and salt and pepper to taste.
4. Into a 9-by-9-inch, 10-by-5-inch or 10-by-6-inch baking pan, spoon a small amount of tomato sauce, then add a thin scattering of Parmesan cheese, then a single layer of eggplant. Repeat until all ingredients are used, ending with the sliced mozzarella, little sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle bread crumbs on top.
4. Bake until eggplant mixture is bubbly and center is hot, 30 to 45 minutes depending on size of pan and thickness of layers. Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes before serving.

As you know from previous posts, we have a little rotation going and, by now, we all know what we need to bring to the host’s house.  When we have dinner at Singer’s house, Foodie brings dessert. Last week she brought Crème Caramel and it was too pretty and too good not to share.  

Crème Caramel
Adapted from:

For the custard base:
4 eggs
2 cups whole milk
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

For the caramel:
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice (if desired; Foodie did not use the lemon juice)

Prepare the custard (at least one hour ahead):
Heat the milk until very hot. Add grated fresh ginger. I let it cool and add vanilla. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until pale and well blended. Slowly pour the milk over the eggs/sugar mixture and whisk until well incorporated. Let cool to room temperature and strain through a sieve.

Prepare the caramel:
In a heavy saucepan, melt the sugar until you reach a nice deep golden color. Be careful as the caramel will continue to darken once removed from the heat.  Carefully divide it among four single serving baking dishes, letting the caramel cool and harden for a few minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  In a deep baking pan, pour some hot water to about an inch deep. Pour the egg custard mixture on top of each dish of caramel and set your baking dishes into the baking pan with water.  The water should come to about half way up the sides of the dishes, so add more water if necessary.

Bake until the middle still jiggles a bit when shaken, about 30 to 50 minutes. The mixture will continue to cook and set while refrigerated.  Let the water bath cool off for a few minutes and remove the baking dishes.  Cool off to room temperature then refrigerate until completely chilled before serving, about two hours.

To serve the Crème Caramel, run a knife along the side of the baking dishes, just like you would when trying to release the sides of a cake, being careful not to cut into the custard.  Then, place the serving dish on top of the baking dish, invert onto the plate and wiggle about.  The caramel will cascade down over the perfectly formed and absolutely delicious mound of custard.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Neighborhoods of Philadelphia - Port Richmond Edition

Philadelphia is a city of neighborhoods. I have a  great tee shirt that illustrates this nicely…all the Philly neighborhoods are listed inside the LOVE symbol  This shirt is available at Aphillyated.

A couple of Saturdays ago my sister and I spent a chilly but sunny afternoon in the Port Richmond section of our city. Our final destination was a little shop called Something Special, but before that we had brunch at a charming little café called “hinge” at the corner of Somerset and Edgemont.   I wondered about the name until I entered the restaurant and saw a huge hinge inlayed in the tile floor.

I didn't know what came first...did the existing tile inlay inspire the name or did the name inspire the tile inlay, so in typical me style, I asked.  The owner T. Deluca and her then partner, Simone, wanted to open a café that catered to the local non-profit art community that would also serve to create a synergy with and “hinge” the neighborhood together, hence the clever name.  So, the cafe name inspired the inlay hinge in the floor – that is actually wood – made by a friend and local artist.   
After a little wait for a table – during which the wait staff offered coffee (a nice touch) –we were seated at an antique desk that doubled as a table, surrounded by the art work mentioned above.

I ordered a Florentine Bennie, a take on traditional eggs Benedict only loaded with spinach as well as the traditional ingredients of a hot, buttered English muffin, two perfectly poached eggs, and a creamy hollandaise sauce. 

I ate every bit of that Bennie! Sister had Monte Cristo French toast and as the name suggests it’s a twist on the traditional sandwich only served French toast style with jam. 

Visit “hinge” at Somerset and Edgemont Streets and like them on facebook here.

After lunch we visited the delightful little shop owned by a group of sister's friends, Something Special located at 2558 E. Somerset Street (Somerset and Almond Streets) in Philadelphia.  Each artist makes a different craft, the fruits of which they sell at the store. Additionally, they offer the work of other artists such as knitters, crocheters, candle, soap and jewelry makers. I bought an absolutely delicious aromatherapy soy lavender candle.
 Also, while walking around, I spotted this little gem and it prompted an immediate memory of a knitted sweater my girls used to wear as little ones.

So much to choose from:
Pillowcase dresses – how cute!

Baby sweaters
Seasonal door and wall ornaments


This is a wonderful little shop operated by the nicest, most down-to-earth group of women...the type that would do anything for you and the kind of people that make Philly a great place to be and live! Next time you're in Port Richmond, pay them a visit!  Like Something Special on facebook here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tuscan Bean Soup

Well, the cold weather continues here in the northeast.  In the Philadelphia area we were spared the brunt of the snow storm that socked most of New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts this past weekend.  Looking at the news reports, I feel guilty being cranky about the lack of sun and a little fog.  One thing I know for sure, the mid-winter doldrums have definitely influenced the menu selections for our Wednesday gatherings!

It was Singers turn to cook and when we arrived there was a delightful fire roaring, an open bottle of wine, and cheese with fruit and crackers, so whatever crabbiness we brought with us immediately vanished up the chimney flue along with the embers!    
The bean soup recipe below is a “morphed recipe” of two soups…a Tuscan Bean Soup that calls for escarole – you can also use Swiss chard -- and a traditional bean soup recipe. Regardless of how Singer arrived at this velvety blend that warmed us straight to our bones, it was really, really good.  Seriously delicious.

This recipe calls for cannellini beans.   Cannellini beans – related to kidney, navy, and green beans – have a mild flavor and are naturally low in fat, high in protein, high in fiber, minerals, B vitamins.  They require boiling to remove compounds and toxins that can cause “gas” and we were all glad that she took the appropriate precautions! To prepare your cannellini beans for your favorite recipes, soak them overnight, boil them for 10 minutes then simmer the beans for 1-2 hours or until tender.

This dish reminded me of my first trip to Italy.  It was a culinary tour and we enjoyed a delicious Tuscan bean soup in the town of Montacatini Terme.  

Aquacotta/ Tuscan Bean Soup with Winter Vegetables
Adapted from:  Marcella Hazan

6 oz of Pancetta
12 cups of water plus extra as needed
1 pound of dried cannellini beans
1 large onion unpeeled and halved, plus one onion chopped
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled plus
3 garlic cloves minced
1 bay leaf
Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil , plus extra for serving
2 small carrots diced
2 celery ribs
2 small leeks
6 oz of kale, stemmed and leaves cut into 1/2 inch strips
6 oz of escarole, stemmed and cut into 1/2 inch strips
6 oz of red potatoes diced medium
1 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes
1 sprig of rosemary
Slide basil for garnish
Toasted slices of Tuscan bread
Grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pancetta in a Dutch oven over medium heat until just golden, about 8 to 10 minutes.  Add water, beans, halved onion, unpeeled garlic, bay leaf, and 1 tsp of salt and bring to boil over medium high heat.  Cover pot partially, reduce heat to simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender,   about 1 ½ hours.  Remove form heat and let stand until beans are tender, about 30 minutes.

Drain beans, saving the cooking liquid.  Discard pancetta, onion, garlic and bay leaf.  Spread beans on a rimmed baking sheet to let cool.
Note:  You can also use canned beans.

While beans are cooling, heat oil in pot until shimmering, add carrots, celery, leeks, chopped onion and cook until softened, about 7 minutes.  Stir in garlic and cook for 30 seconds, add enough water to reserved cooking liquid from the beans to equal 9 cups and add to the pot with kale and escarole.  Increase heat to medium high and bring to boil, cover and reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add potatoes and tomatoes and cook until potatoes are tender about 20 minutes.  Add beans to pot and increase heat to medium high and bring to a simmer.  Submerge rosemary in liquid and let stand off heat for 15 to 20 minutes.  Discard rosemary and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Poach an egg into each soup serving by gently cracking an egg over the soup liquid and covering for a few minutes until softly poached.  Place toast into bowl, add soup and top with basil, egg, and grated parmesan cheese.

We also had a beautiful and delicious Crème Caramel prepared by Foodie (more on that later)….we are so lucky, this little group of ours.

Cannellini bean photo from google images.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Roasted Eggplant Ratatouille

I am a messy cook.

I'm reading a book called “A Homemade Life” by Molly Wizenberg.  In the book, which is part memoir, part cookbook, she tells stories and shares recipes inspired or evoked by an experience.  Ms. Wizenberg is a masterful story teller and I will write more about the book later but in one early chapter she notes that she learned many things from her dad including the value of cleaning up the kitchen as you go while cooking.  She says “When you’re cooking, if you have time – any time at all – to stop to wash a few dishes or wipe the counter, do it.  It’ll mean less mess in the end, which means more time to enjoy your food, your company, your day, all of it.” 

I made a note of this.

I made several notes… copy of this book is a little tattered and nicely annotated...just the way I like a good book.  I think this is why I'm having a hard time adjusting to e-books.   I like my hand-written notes....they make me feel connected to the pages I've read.

It was my turn to cook on Wednesday and I was completely smitten by the recipe for ratatouille on page 124, a go-to dish the author often made while living in France.  Vegetables were abundant in the street markets of France and she would shop a greengrocer “under a myrtle green awning” on rue Oberkampf in Paris. I have no idea where this is but hopefully the awning will help me locate it when I visit. 

Anyway, the easy access to fresh vegetables offered the perfect excuse to (frequently) make this stew of eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, thyme and bay leaf.  Other versions of this recipe call for herbs de Provence but this version uses thyme, bay leaf and basil.  It also calls for pre-baking rather than sautéing the eggplant to give it the aubergine a more tender, less spongy consistency.  
Growing up, the native Oklahoman used to eat leftover ratatouille over Yukon gold potatoes roughly smashed with a fork.  I took this concept to a swankier level and served my concoction with Parsnip Mashed Potatoes. At first potatoes and ratatouille seemed a little “Felix and Oscar” to me but then I read that eggplant is related to the potato and tomato, so now it makes perfect sense!

Roasted Eggplant Ratatouille
From:  A Homemade Life

1 lb. eggplant, sliced in 1” rounds
Olive oil
1 lb. zucchini, sliced into ½” half-moons
1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
5 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
½ teaspoon sea salt
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
¼ cup fresh chopped basil


Brush both sides of the eggplant with the olive oil and arrange in a single layer on a baking dish.  Bake for 30 minutes at 400° or until nicely browned, turning halfway through.  Cut the rounds into 1” pieces and set aside.

Warm 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven and add the zucchini, stirring occasionally until golden and tender.  Remove from the pan. 

Add more oil if needed, reduce the heat and add the onions and sauté until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the bell pepper and garlic and cook until softened but not browned, about 6 minutes.  

Add the tomatoes, salt, thyme and bay leaf and stir to combine.  Reduce the heat and cook for 5 minutes.  Add the eggplant and zucchini, stir to incorporate and cook until all ingredients are tender, about 20 minutes.  Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

Ms. Wizenberg’s note:  “Ratatouille is even better on the second or third day.  If you can, plan to make it ahead of time so the flavors have time to meld and ripen.” 

I made my ratatouille on Monday and served in on Wednesday with the parsnip mashed potatoes, a delicious salad, a wonderful bottle of red wind and, for dessert, the creamiest chocolate pudding served in charming vintage tea cups.