Monday, April 19, 2010

I love Ratatouille!

Ratatouille.. Ratatouille.. I love how it sounds and how it tastes! A simple dish from the south of France, which really allows the flavors of the vegetables to shine through. There are a million recipes for Ratatouille out there - the vegetables are either cooked together, or baked or cooked individually and then combined so that they retain their shape. I followed a recipe from Jacques Pepin's show. I love watching cookery shows on PBS and Pepin's show in particular. He demystifies French cuisine for novices like me and presents many simple dishes in his quiet and unpretentious style. Anyway, Ratatouille tastes fantastic at room temperature, or slightly warm. It can be served with bread, pasta or couscous. To me, this was the obvious choice for It's a Vegan World : France.

2 Japanese Eggplants, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
3 Medium Zucchini/Yellow Squash, diced
2 Bell Peppers (any kind), diced
2 C tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, smashed
1 medium Onion, sliced
1 T Olive oil
1/2 t dried basil
1/4 t dried thyme
1/8 t dried rosemary
1/2 t Cayenne pepper
1/2 t black pepper
2 T black olives (optional)
Salt to taste

Heat olive oil in a wide bottomed pan and add the onions and garlic. When the onions turn translucent, add the bell peppers and saute for a few minutes. Add the diced eggplant and squash, salt and herbs. After about 5 minutes, add the tomatoes, salt, pepper and cayenne. Let cook on low heat for about 20 minutes. Garnish with black olives if desired.

Creamy Potato Leek Soup

While it is hardly soup weather here in Atlanta, I wanted to try and make this soup for the No Croutons Required event this month over at the Tinned Tomatoes. Ever since I made a home made bouillon after reading about it here and here, I have been dying to make quick soups using it. Quick is exactly what this soup is - at least in terms of hands-on time.

While the Potato-leek soup idea fit the Allium theme at No Croutons Required very well, there was another inspiration. We first tried this soup at our favourite soup-and-salad buffet and loved it. It was mild and yet full of flavour, and particularly soothing during fall/winter. When I found a recipe for this soup in Mollie Katzen's Enchanted Broccoli Forest (one of my favourite cookbooks), I decided that hot weather should not stop me. I modified her recipe slightly to suit my tastes.


2 large potatoes, scrubbed and diced
3 leeks, cleaned and sliced
4 C vegetable stock (with home made bouillon)
1/4 t dried thyme
1 C milk
1 t pepper, fresh ground
Salt to taste

Start by boiling the stock in a large soup pot. Add diced potatoes and sliced leeks. I peeled the potatoes, but I imagine with new red potatoes, one can leave the skins on. I discarded most of the dark green portions of the leeks since they were too tough. Boil the vegetables in the stock for about 30-40 min on medium heat, until they are tender. Allow it to cool and then puree. Add the thyme, pepper and the milk and reheat gently, not allowing it to boil. I didn't add salt since the bouillon base had plenty.

This soup was very quick and is completely oil/butter free! It tasted very similar to the one in the restaurant and that pleased me quite a bit.