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Want to be a French chef? You can d’ouille’ it!

Ratatouille
Ratatouille is a vegetarian dish with lots of color, deep flavors and makes for a hearty meal or side dish.

In an online article, author Ossiana Tepfenhart explains that there are lots of foods we now consider “fancy” that were once “poor man’s food.”

Dishes that fit the bill include lobster, oysters and even caviar. 

Another dish that she could have included? Ratatouille. 

The summer stew, native to Nice, France, was once considered a humble dish for humble folks, but now (probably thanks, in part, to the animated movie with the same name), it’s a meal that sounds luxurious and expensive.

I’m here to tell you that it’s definitely not expensive (or it shouldn’t be), and it’s actually deceptively easy to make, as long as you’re ready to do a lot of vegetable chopping.

It’s also a great dinner if you have a vegetarian eating at your table and can also suit vegans, as long as you substitute vegan parmesan into the recipe.

And I know this is technically a summer dish, but I can tell you there were still enough veggies hanging around at my local grocery store to accomplish this one, and as a hearty, warm meal, it suits these early fall days perfectly.

This recipe is inspired by a recipe from Bianca Zapatka. You can find it on her blog at https://biancazapatka.com/en/best-ratatouille-recipe/. I mostly used a video by the blog “One Dollar Kitchen” you can find on Pinterest. I added extra garlic in my version and replaced fresh herbs with dried.

Ratatouille
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Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a vegetarian dish with lots of color, deep flavors and makes for a hearty meal or side dish.
Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine French
Keyword basil, bell pepper, crushed tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, parmesan, rosemary, thyme, vegan, vegetarian, yellow onion, yellow squash

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil divided
  • 1 yellow onion diced
  • 1 red pepper diced
  • 1 yellow pepper diced
  • 6-8 cloves garlic minced
  • 28 ounce crushed tomatoes
  • 4 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1 small eggplant sliced
  • 2 small yellow squash sliced
  • 2 small zucchini sliced
  • 6 roma tomatoes sliced
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated parmesan for serving

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  • Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and bell peppers and saute until they’re soft. Add the garlic and saute until it’s fragrant.
  • Add in the crushed tomatoes, basil, and salt and pepper, and cook for a couple minutes.
  • Arrange the eggplant, squash, zucchini and tomatoes in a spiral in the skillet, starting around the outside edge and working your way in. (Stand the slices up on their ends, rather than laying them flat, and arrange them tightly.)
  • Mix the remaining olive oil with the rosemary and thyme in a small bowl, and spoon or brush the mixture as evenly as possible over the top of the vegetables. Top with more salt and pepper.
  • Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for one hour.
  • Serve alone, with pasta or as a side dish and sprinkle servings with grated parmesan.

This has great depth of flavor, and we had an absolute ton of leftovers after making this for just two of us, so I would caution you to plan accordingly.

And after you make ratatouille at home, you can officially say you’ve practiced your French cooking. You don’t have to tell anyone its origins. After all, considering the prices nowadays of lobster, oysters or caviar, I think it’s safe to say things can change.

This piece first appeared in print on Oct. 14, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

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Main Dish

Make summer meals direct from farm to ‘vege’table

This skillet sausage and zucchini dish is not only a quick meal to make but features plenty of fresh summer vegetables to create a beautiful, colorful plate.

The vegetable section of our local grocery store has been calling to me lately. And now that our local farmer’s markets are in full swing, I’m sure I’ll be finding all kinds of reasons to bring home fresh produce.

This past week, the siren’s song was coming from the zucchini. It was so pretty and just waiting for me to throw it into a pan, so I immediately went hunting for a quick and easy summer recipe for eating some fresh vegetables.

I was not disappointed in the one I found. Not only does it come together in under 30 minutes—even with me being one of the slowest vegetable choppers on the planet—but it was also absolutely delicious.

I found this on the blog “Counts of the Netherworld.” You can find the original post at https://countsofthenetherworld.com/skillet-sausage-and-zucchini-20-minute/. I changed up amounts of the seasonings in my version.

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Skillet Sausage and Zucchini

This skillet sausage and zucchini dish is not only a quick meal to make but features plenty of fresh summer vegetables to create a beautiful, colorful plate.
Course Main Course
Keyword 30-minute meal, garlic, red bell pepper, sausage, yellow onion, zucchini

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 14 ounces fully cooked sausage cut into rounds
  • 2 medium zucchini cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 small yellow onion but into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large red bell pepper, but into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 to 8 cloves garlic minced

Instructions

  • Heat one tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the sliced sausage and cook until it is nicely browned.
  • Remove the sausage from the skillet and add the second tablespoon of olive oil, along with the zucchini, onion, bell pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, basil and salt and pepper.
  • Stir regularly until the vegetables are soft.
  • Add in the garlic and saute until it just starts to brown, then add the sausage back to the pan. Stir until everything is heated through and serve immediately.

I opted to use a Polish kielbasa for our sausage of choice, but you could easily substitute in something spicier or a turkey or chicken sausage to lighten this even more or even use a meatless “sausage” option, too. 

We ended up with two nice, big portions and another one to put in the fridge, so you might want to double this if you’re feeding a bigger crowd.

Also, it would be so easy to substitute or just add in summer squash, more colors of bell peppers and maybe even some small tomatoes into the mix for this.

Let the local veggie scene guide you on this one.

I’m sure many folks will be very, very tired of zucchini by the end of the summer growing season, but for now, I’m completely excited to start getting ahold of more locally grown vegetables.

Now, if only the ice cream cooler would stop calling to me, too, this could be a perfect summer.

This piece first appeared in print on July 1, 2021.

Spice Up Your Life is a weekly newspaper column written by Lindsey Young in south central Kansas. If you are interested in sponsoring this column, please contact us through the “Contact Lindsey” link at the top of the page.

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