Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ratatouille for Christmas



I've made ratatouille before, but this version - from Julie Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" - is the best I've had. It was so flavorful!

I decided to make ratatouille for dinner on Christmas, with couscous on the side, because my partner's mother had not had any version of this dish before. This dish also fit my need and my partner's need for a main course that was healthy and low in calories, to offset the candies and cookies we had been noshing on throughout the week.

This ratatouille did take me a bit longer to make than anticipated, because I had forgotten that the eggplant and zucchini needed to be salted and set aside for about 30 minutes before sauteing. It took an additional 40 minutes to finish preparing dinner.

You will need a skillet with a cover and a 2 1/2-quart pot with a cover. As for how to peel, seed, and juice a tomato, instructions may be found here.

Ratatouille
Serves approximately 4

1/2 pound eggplant, peeled, cut into 1-inch-by-3-inch pieces
1/2 pound zucchini, ends cut off, and cut into same-size pieces
1/2 pound yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 pound ripe (but firm) red tomatoes, peeled and seeded
2 garlic cloves, pressed
2 green bell peppers, sliced
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons minced parsley
Salt and pepper

Separately toss the eggplant and zucchini in salt, place in bowls (or colanders), and set aside for about 30 minutes. Rinse the salt from the eggplant and zucchini and pat dry with a dish towel.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute the eggplant until browned on both sides, about 1 minute. Remove from the skillet and repeat with the zucchini. Remove the zucchini from the skillet.

Cook the onions and peppers in the same skillet until the onions become soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Slice the tomatoes into 3/8-inch strips and lay them on top of the onions. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes start to release their juices. Uncover and baste the tomatoes with their juices. Continue cooking over medium-high heat for several more minutes until the juices have almost evaporated.

Divide the tomato-onion mixture into thirds and divide the eggplant and zucchini into halves. Place one-third of the tomato-onion mixture on the bottom of a 2 1/2 quart pot. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of parsley over this layer.

Layer half of the eggplant and zucchini on top of the tomato-onion mixture in the pot. Repeat this layering process with another one-third of the tomato-onion mixture and parsley and the remaining eggplant and zucchini. Finish with the remaining tomato-onion mixture and parsley.

Cover the pot and simmer over low heat for about 10 minutes. Uncover and tip the pot to baste with the juices. Cook uncovered for another 15 minutes, basting several more times, until most of the juices have evaporated. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Gratin Dauphinois



'Tis the season for cheap eats, at least in my case. Around this time every year, I find myself cringing each time I review my credit card balance.

This
gratin dauphinois is inexpensive and simple to make. This version uses low fat milk, as opposed to whole milk, and light cream, instead of heavy cream or creme fraiche. I think serving it in individual gratin dishes classes up the meal in terms of presentation. Recently, I was in a restaurant supply store in the District and stumbled upon some gratin dishes I really liked. They were the right size and the right color for just $3.99 each.

For two persons, take
two large russet potatoes (between 1 1/2 to 2 lbs) and cut them into 1/8" to 1/4" slices. A food processor or a mandoline slicer is helpful here.

Put the potatoes in a large pot or pan and cover with
2-3 cups of low fat (not skim) milk. Add a dash or so of salt and bring to a boil over medium to medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking the potatoes for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, rub the inside of a baking dish or individual gratin dishes with
crushed garlic cloves. Next, rub the inside of the baking dish or individual gratin dishes with unsalted butter. Drain the potatoes and layer half the potatoes along the bottom of the baking dish or gratin dishes. Sprinkle grated gruyere cheese over the potatoes and then some fresh thyme leaves and salt. Splash some light cream on top. Add the remaining potatoes and repeat with the cheese, thyme, salt and cream.

Place the baking dish or individual gratin dishes in a
preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven when the top or tops become golden brown and the edges bubbly. Let sit for about 5 minutes before serving.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Koyo Foods Brand Packaged Ramen Soup



Making ramen noodle soup from scratch isn't difficult at all.

Sometimes, though, I get a craving for ramen, but don't want to spend more than, say,
4 minutes preparing it.

The packages of ramen soup (Nissin or Maruchan brands) that are commonly found in grocery stores aren't vegetarian friendly. Their flavor packets typically contain animal byproducts. I also avoid these ramen packages because their flavor packets contain monosodium glutamate (MSG).

While the vegetarian Koyo Foods brand packages of ramen soup I recently purchased at My Organic Market in Alexandria contain no MSG, their sodium content is nonetheless high. For example, the Seaweed Ramen I had for lunch on Sunday contains 785 mgs of sodium, which is, unfortunately, comparable to the amount of sodium found in packages of Nissin and Maruchan brands of ramen.



As for taste, the Koyo ramen soup was quite good. The broth for the Seaweed Ramen was like a very light miso soup. I'll definitely keep a few packages on hand, for a quickie lunch or snack.

If
you can get your hands on this product, it's worth checking out. Amazon sells 12 packages for about $15.