Thursday, July 22, 2010


I had been eyeing this recipe for ratatouille on my favorite food blog — Smitten Kitchen — for months. Legend has it, this is the very recipe the cunning rat in the movie Ratatouille uses to blow the culinary mind of the evil food critic.

But without the fresh veggies, it seemed like a bit of a waste to try it. So I waited. And waited. And then, after a long day at the farm earlier this week — milking goats, planting beets and smashing up black currants to make a deep, dark and delicious syrup — I came home to find I had nearly everything I needed, right there on my counter.

It occurred to me that anyone who's bringing home veggies from the farm these days might end up in a similar situation. So it seemed only fitting to share.

I'd brought home a crazy looking pattypan squash and a zucchini so large it was slightly rude. I rode my bike down to the co-op and picked up an eggplant, a red pepper (the purple ones in my garden are still apricot sized) and a bunch of thyme. And then I got right to it.

Besides the endless slicing, the recipe was dead simple. I pureed some tomatoes (last year's, jarred at the farm) in the blender and poured it into a baking dish.

Then I thinly sliced two cloves of garlic and a medium onion and mixed them, along with a tablespoon of olive oil, in with the tomatoes.

Next came the fiddly part. I made super-thin slices out of the eggplant, zucchini, red pepper and squash. It took me some time to figure out how to attack that bizarre pattypan. I settled on cutting it into quarters and then slicing from the narrowest angle. I still have three quarters of the beast left.

Then I arranged the veggie slices in the baking dish, layering them one-by-one so only their colorful edges peeked out, spiraling in until I'd filled the whole dish.

I drizzled another tablespoon of oil over the top, generously sprinkled it with salt and pepper and garnished it with a few sprigs of fresh thyme. Then I covered the whole thing with a strip of parchment paper and threw it in the oven.

About 45 minutes later, the smells started wafting: fresh and garlicky with a hint of thyme. When I opened the oven, the tomato sauce was bubbling and the vegetables were just right. I chopped up some basil (this from my own garden!) and crumbled a hefty portion of goat cheese (if only the cheese I'd made from our goats hadn't been obliterated weeks ago!) and threw some cajun spices into a pot of rice.

I wish I had photos of that first bite — but I just couldn't interrupt the deliciousness to snap any. So you'll just have to imagine: a rainbow of vegetable slivers, piled onto cajun rice, dotted with chunks of goat cheese and garnished with the freshly chopped basil.

It was definitely worth the wait.

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