I was inspired to make a French dish to honor Bastille Day, but truth be told, I really don’t need a reason. French cuisine is among my favorite types food to cook and with the celebration of the French storming the bastille, it was the perfect opportunity to revisit a summertime fav, Ratatouille.
I like to research multiple recipes and pick and choose from amongst them for the ingredients and cooking techniques that I think would make the dish phenomenal. I’ve been following Melissa Clark of the New York Times, she authors the food section, “The New Essentials of French Cooking” and has written many cookbooks. She breaks down the history of ratatouille and points out that this dish does not have a set recipe or precise technique. I appreciate that because she provided the framework as I went about reviewing other recipes. I used a combination of her wisdom, Julia Child’s process and Bruno Albouze’s authenticity, he is French born and raised. He added the extra kick of charring the peppers for the sauce. I think this only adds to what Julia says in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, and I quote, “Ratatouille perfumes the kitchen…” The sauce turned out soooo good, you could just eat it alone, like a gazpacho…which I did. There was more than enough sauce for the casserole, one-third cup was reserved pour moi. #cookperk
Besides the rich flavor of this dish, when prepared as a casserole, the presentation is as beautiful as it is delicious. I used a mandolin to slice perfect 1/16th –inch rounds for the squash and zucchini; however, it didn’t work so well for the eggplant and tomatoes. I had to resort to my knife skills, which can use some sharpening, but it turned out lovely none-the-less.
And, of course every celebratory meal deserves its own signature cocktail. What better choice than an elegant sparkly. The French invented the effervescence we have all come to associate with raising a glass. St. Germain Champagne, served up, rises to the occassion.
The presentation is gorgeous and is perfect for any summer get together or revolution.
Viva La France!
Side Note: Always hold your flute by the stem. More than looking sophisticated, you reserve the chill of the beverage. Otherwise, the heat emanating from your hand warms the beverage…who wants body temperature champagne on a hot summer’s day?…No one. Pinkies up!
RATATOUILLE & ST. GERMAIN CHAMPAGNE
Serves 6 to 8
Recipe adapted from Bruno Albouze
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 tablespoon butter and olive (each)
- 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, charred, peeled and chopped
- 1 jalepeno pepper, charred, peeled and chopped
- 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons Herbes de Provence
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 6 fresh basil leaves
- 2 yellow squash, sliced into 1/16” rounds
- 2 zucchinis, sliced into 1/16th-rounds
- 2 Japanese eggplants, sliced into 1/16th-rounds
- 6 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 1/16th-rounds
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- Salt and pepper to tasted
ST. GERMAIN CHAMPAGNE
- 2 parts Champagne
- 1 part St. Germain
- chilled flute
- garnish with lavender
- Roast peppers over a flame and put them into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, let them steam for about 15 minutes; then peel peppers
- Meanwhile prepare the mire poix, chop carrots, celery and onion
- Slice zucchini, squash, eggplant and tomatoes into1/16th inch rounds
- Open the peppers, take the seeds and ribs out and chopped them
- Sautee the mire poix on high heat for about 10 minutes; add garlic and cook for about 3 more minutes then stir in the roasted peppers
- Add in the crushed tomatoes and herbe de Provence and cook down for about 20 minutes
- Puree with basil, then put the mixture back into the pan
- Arrange a strip of alternating slice of tomato, squash, zucchini and eggplant; add salt, pepper and the olive oil, garlic, thyme seasoning; cover with foil
- Bake for 3-hours at 280 degrees
- Right before serving, uncover and bake for another 45 minutes at 350 degrees
The “double” cookings give the vegetable and herbs new verve when they are combined and cooked again (Melissa Clark)
The Telltale Kitchen (cafelamour.me; alovecafe; gina’skitchen, spellbindingcuisine) reveals traditions, beliefs, myths and secrets of food and cooking.