Ah, summer.  Here’s my favorite use for green peppers.   Right after my mom’s stuffed green peppers, that is.

I loved the movie (Ratatouille).
Also “The Big Night”
And “Babette’s Feast”
Try them.   Food movies.  Ah.

I love the real deal better.   If you become a devoted cook, your world will revolve around the seasons.  Stews in winter.  Apple pie in the fall.  Berries in the spring.  And…
High summer: Tons of vegetables at their peak. 

Can brown meat hold a candle to these jewel-toned lovelies?

Tomatoes
Zucchini
Eggplant
Bell Peppers–green or red
Garlic just  harvested

If you don’t know ratatouille (the real deal), here’s a definition from dictionary.reference.com:

 ra·ta·touille
[rat-uhtoo-ee, twee; Fr. ra-tatoo-yuh]  

noun

a vegetable stew of Provence, typically consisting of eggplant, zucchini, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, and garlic, served hot or cold.

My basil, yellow zucchini, and Japanese egglant in the bath together.

I am unsure if I would call it a “stew.”  I’m thinking a melange suits my ratatouille better.  This mixture of great vegetables, some cooked separately and some together (all mixed in the end) is, like much cooking, a totally personal dish.  While it can be a side dish, a main, served over pasta (rice, cous cous), or in an omelet, it can contain various proportions (depending on your garden/taste or market) of the vegetables mentioned above.  It can have more or less (I like more) garlic.  It can have crushed red pepper.  Fewer tomatoes.

The vegetables could be grilled, then mixed.  Or sautéed in the typical way.  I have, in a pinch, frozen it and brought it out in late fall so we can close our eyes and drum up summer days.  Tell me how you make and use yours?   For a solo cook, this is perfect.  You can share with a vegan friend, keep some for tomorrow, cut the recipe in half, or do it all and throw containers in the freezer for lunches. Here’s a starter recipe:

Alyce’s Ratatouille with Green and Red Bell Peppers  Give yourself 1.5 – 2 hours.  While this cooks quickly, the chopping takes time.

1/4 cup olive oil (divided)
3-4 Japanese eggplant (skinny long ones) or 2 medium eggplant, cut into 1″ cubes
1 tsp salt, divided
3 zucchini and 3 yellow squash, cut into 1″ cubes
1 each:  red bell pepper and green bell pepper (or yellow), cut into strips
2 large onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup each:  chopped Italian (or curly) parsley and chopped fresh basil
1/4 c chopped fresh dill (or 1T dried dill)
1T dried oregano, optional
1 28 oz can Italian tomatoes, drained (reserve juice) or 1.5-2# fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped*
1 6 oz can tomato paste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 t crushed red pepper, optional (or to taste; be careful)

  1.   Preheat oven to 350.  Place chopped eggplant on a baking tray, sprinkle lightly with salt and let sit while the oven preheats.  When the oven is hot, blot the eggplant lightly on both sides with paper towels and drizzle lightly with olive oil.  Cover the tray with foil tightly and bake about 40 minutes or until the eggplant is tender.  Remove from oven, remove foil, and set aside.
  2. Meantime,  in a large, deep skillet (or heavy soup pot), cook in the remaining oil the onions, peppers, and zucchini until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes.  Add garlic, herbs, tomatoes, and tomato paste.  Season with about 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of black pepper.  Stir well, heat through and taste.  Add crushed red pepper and taste again.  Adjust seasoning if necessary.  
  3. Let simmer 15 -20 minutes over low heat.  Add eggplant and warm through.  Add some of the reserved tomato juice if the mixture becomes too thick and is sticking or if you’d like a looser consistency.
  4. Serve as is (hot, warm or cold), with Parmesan, over pasta, beneath fish or chicken, or in an omelet.  A big bowl of this and a hunk of bread folks can tear and dip into it is perfect August food.  
  5. Store tightly covered in frig 2-3 days or freeze for 3-6 months, well-wrapped. 

*To peel fresh tomatoes, cut an X in the bottom and  top.  Plunge into boiling water for a minute or two.  Pull out, let cool briefly (til you can handle them without being burned) and peel off skins using a small sharp knife or your fingers.  Chop coarsely before adding to ratatouille

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read all about the great green pepper here

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Every Friday for the foreseeable future, I’ll be blogging one of the 38 healthiest ingredients from POWER FOODS : 150 DELICIOUS RECIPES WITH THE 38 HEALTHIEST INGREDIENTS by the editors of Whole Living Magazine.

38 Power Foods is a group effort!   Stop by these other blogs and see what they’re cooking each week as we team up to bring you some of the healthiest cooking available.

Ansh – SpiceRoots.com  
Jill – SaucyCooks 

Sarah – Everything in the Kitchen Sink
Anabanana – adobodownunder.blogspot.com
.
As we go along, I’m guessing we’ll get some other writers involved.  If you’re interested in joining the gang writing each week, get in touch with Mireya from My Healthy Eating Habits:  Mireya@MyHealthyEatingHabits.com

portions of this blog post previously posted on More Time

TWO-DOG KITCHEN  and AROUND THE ‘HOOD

We’re back in Colorado Springs for the summer.  And yes, it’s a changed community.

As I rode around town with my friend Mary Pat checking out estate sales and going out to our favorite restaurants, we saw the sad story of the fire over and over.   Still smoldering and putting out smoke all the time, it’s not over.  It’s a constant and frightening reminder of what just happened and what could happen again soon.  And it’s definitely not over for the people whose homes were leveled.  We met one such woman at the estate sale; she was filling a storage unit with household items against the day when her house is rebuilt.  Folks are edgy and somewhat shell-shocked.  Many are ill with respiratory ailments.  The talk around town is of little else.   Eyes are pensively wide open and brows are furrowed.  The signs thanking firefighters are everywhere.  A truck fire on the interstate is huge news because it would just take one spark, you see.  The mountains, instead of their usual summer beautiful green, sport a big black veil of early-Halloween spooky trees and landscape.  Creepy?  Oh, yes.  And more.   I just don’t know exactly how to put it; it’s painful and frightening.


I keep thinking of the Chicago fire (1871?); I grew up there and the stories were long and awful.  Or the San Francisco fire.  And of course it was nothing like the Dresden firebombing by Americans and Brits in mid-February, 1945.  (135,000 people killed)  These things, these fires, aren’t new. 

Chicago burning from the lake.  courtesy firepics.com

I’ve lived in Colorado for 15 years, though I live mostly in Minnesota now.  Every year we fight fires; every year we breathe the smoke from other western fires.   Every year it gets hotter.  And drier.  The last year we lived here full time, it didn’t rain the entire year.  There were a few sprinkles here and there, but there was literally no rain. 


But we’re here..and the dogs are here with us….and it’s wonderful to see family, friends, and even the robins who built a nest in our absence.  We have bears around the ‘hood, but no bobcats right now (the number of bunnies lets us know).  I’ll snap some of the yard soon for you. 


This Saturday is our 38th wedding anniversary.  We’ll open the front door and see who stops by for a bite of cheese, a sip of wine, and a plate of cake. 

 
 Oh, yes, the pups:

Mr. Tuck happy in Sean’s lap

Ball, please?

 And young friend Heather came to stay a few days to visit and cook…

Learning to cook on grill.

The meat is how done if it gives like the end of your nose?  (medium)

 Want to face-test your meat?  Check it out here.
 Heather , who just finished 7th grade, has cooked and baked with me (along with her brother) since she was tiny.  She just started her own food blog.  Give her a view, encouragement, and tips!!


heatherlorrainecooks.blogspot.com
 
Sing a new song,
Alyce