Friday, August 1, 2008

Fresh Summer Ratatouille

We celebrated all things local last evening at Agren Appliance in Augusta, Maine. This was the first in a year long series of cooking classes that we are taping to post online and show on local cable stations around Maine.
Whether you are in Provence or on the coast of Maine this summer dish will have your tastebuds singing! Use the freshest ingredients you can find from your local farmer's market- your rewards will be rich! Make this dish in three parts- base, veggies and dressing. Each one is easier than the last but the sum is more than the parts.
Serves 4-6
Base Layer:
1 1/2 cups finely diced pepper- you can combine colors if you like. I often use red orange and yellow with some green Anaheim pepper for good measure. Be sure to remove the stem, seeds and light colored ribs inside before chopping.
2 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 c finely diced sweet yellow onion
3 fresh tomatoes (a generous 1 1/2 cups) peeled, seeded, and finely diced. Reserve all of the juice.
1 sprig fresh thyme
3 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
1 sprig fresh oregano
1 sprig fresh rosemary
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
Veggie Layer:
1 zucchini (a medium to large squash) sliced in 1mm rounds
2 Japanese eggplants, sliced into 1mm rounds
1 yellow summer squash (a medium to large squash), sliced into 1/16-inch rounds 4 tomatoes, sliced into 1mm rounds
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 t olive oil
1 t fresh thyme leaves
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 t sugar
2 T Assorted fresh herbs (thyme flowers, chive blossoms, thyme)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garnish: Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

For the Base Layer: Combine oil, garlic, and onion in medium skillet over low heat until very soft but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes (and any juice), thyme, parsley, and basil. Simmer over low heat until very soft and very little liquid remains, about 10 minutes; add peppers and simmer gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove and discard herb stems. Reserve 1 Tablespoon of the base mixture and spread the rest in the bottom of an 12-inch skillet.
For vegetables, heat oven to 275 degrees. Arrange the sliced vegetables in an alternating pattern in the middle of the pan on top of the base layer. Overlap so that 2-3mm of each slice is exposed. Around this strip, continue to layer the vegetables in a spiral pattern. Continue to lay the vegetables in a spiral around the first strip that allows slices to mound slightly toward the center. Continue layering the veggies until pan is filled (you may have some slices left over.

Combine the garlic, oil and thyme leaves in bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle this mixture over the vegetables. Cover the pan with a layer of parchment. Cover this layer with foil and seal edges well. Bake until vegetables are tender when tested with a paring knife, about 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes. Replace the foil if the veggies start to brown. If there is excess liquid in pan, place the pan over medium heat on the stove top until the liquid has reduced. (At this point it may be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Serve cold or reheat in 350-degree oven until warm.)

For the dressing, combine reserved base layer mixture, oil, vinegar, herbs, sugar and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.
To serve: Broil until lightly golden brown. Slice into six pie shaped pieces and carefully lift onto plate with a spatula. Drizzle dressing around each plate. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve hot.

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