Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fall menu: vegetable stew

This simple stew is based on classic ratatouille, but I learned it from my grandma, who, while being a natural intuitive cook, was born and raised in a Russian village, so the recipe that she got from one of her lady friends she called "soup ritatoole". This was not correct, but did sound like a song for us, kids, to dance to: soup, soup, ri-ta-toole, tap-tap-tap, clap-clap-clap...
It isn't really a soup, it's a very moist stew , and I like reduce some of the cooking liquid and spoon it over the meat that I serve with it.

This time I used cherry tomatoes from my garden, they grow faster than I eat them, and some of them get overripe and crack - these I use for cooking. A good practice would be to use San Marzanos, but these grow so slowly, I just get one or two a week.
I don't peel the tomatoes, but I fire-roast and peel the peppers. I know, most people would do exactly the opposite - let them. The eggplants here are japanese cherry variety, I bought them for their good looks, and will never do it again. Inside their cuteness, they consist mostly of seeds. Fat Italian eggplants rule. This stew benefits from lots of garlic, so if your garlic tolerance is even higher than mine (unlikely!), add some more.

The beauty of this dish is that you eat as much as you want hot (here it's served with pork loin chop, seasoned with salt and pepper and sauteed in a little olive oil), put the leftovers in a jar, top with a splash of red wine vinegar, and refrigerate for up to a week, serving cold as an appetizer or to garnish meat.

Fall vegetable stew
makes 2-3 servings

1 small or 1/2 large red onion, sliced in 1/2 inch half-rings
4-5 garlic cloves, sliced
2 Tbsp olive oil
large handfull of cherry tomatoes, halved
4 small eggplants, sliced
2 bell peppers, fire-roasted, skinned, seeded and sliced
a few olives
a few sprigs of fresh herbs: oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf (easy on the last two)
1/2 glass white wine
salt, pepper, sugar (optional) to taste
2 tsp red wine vinegar

Heat the oil in a deep sautee pan, add garlic and onion, cook stirring over medium heat for several minutes, until soft and translucent. Add eggplant, cook until almost cooked. Add tomatoes, peppers, olives, herbs and wine. Lower the heat, cover the pan, and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring once in a while. Adjust salt, pepper and optional sugar.

If not serving immediately, add vinegar and refrigerate.

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