All content copyright Katrina Hall 2008 through 2025

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

chunky ratatouille with rainbow peppers (and a little salsa)

When I was young, ratatouille was not an unknown - I ate it, but it often was made with too much olive oil, and the vegetables were limp and , to my eye, overcooked.  And then came Nouvelle Cuisine.  Somewhere I read a recipe for ratatouille during that time -  the vegetables were cooked quickly, and they stayed beautifully colorful.  From that time on I tinkered with the recipe, depending on the season.  Which brings me to my delight with those cello bags of small, colorful sweet peppers, which are almost always on hand.  Instead of using one large pepper , I thought it would be even prettier with a rainbow of color - orange, reds, yellows - the green of zucchini, the dusky skin of the eggplant.

And you see, I was right:

In under 45 minutes from start to finish I had at least 5 or 6 cups of ratatouille  - some into containers for the fridge, and some to give away to my neighbors, who are always interested in what I'm cooking.

The recipe:

Note:  I taste raw eggplant and usually can tell if it's going to be bitter.  Bitter eggplant is a disaster because there's no way to save it, you have to toss it.  That said, it's wise to slice the eggplant, sprinkle with kosher salt, and let sit 15 minutes.  Wash and pat dry before proceeding with the recipe.

1 medium firm eggplant, sliced (see above), cut into large dice
4 tablespoons good olive oil (I use California)
1 large white onion, chopped
4 smashed peeled garlic cloves
2 medium green zucchinis, washed, sliced into large dice
1/2 lb (which is half a bag) of rainbow mini peppers, trimmed of stems and seeded and sliced into fourths
1 medium can of diced tomatoes, include juices
1 cup small cherry tomatoes, whole
3 tablespoons Green Mountain Gringo salsa, medium heat
salt and pepper to taste
dried basil and oregano, or you can use fresh as well - I prefer dried.

In a large pot over medium heat, add the olive oil until sizzling.  Add the onions and garlic and stir for a few minutes, then add the chopped peppers.  Let the peppers sear a little before stirring them - I like the little bit of charring they pick up.

Add the canned tomatoes, salsa, herbs, eggplant, and zucchini and stir well. Then add the whole cherry tomatoes and gently stir in.  Let cook, half covered, on medium heat 15-20 minutes, then stir and taste the ratatouille.  There should be no undercooked pieces in the pot.  Take the pot off the burner, cover, and let sit half an hour before eating.  You can plate it or just put it in a bowl or serving dish.


Thursday, March 10, 2016

kale, scallion and sharp cheddar frittata

I think the biggest change going from a solitary, rural living situation, to living in a city with a blended family of grown children and grandchildren is cooking.  Gluten-free and vegetarian, and sometimes vegan meals have to be considered, so I was overjoyed when I found this recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen which, for now, everyone can eat.  She calls it an egg bake, I call it delicious, and the boys call it a frittata.  We primarily use Cabot's Seriously Sharp cheddar cheese, so I used that instead of mozzarella.  I added a few more eggs, because the egg mixture seemed a little scanty in the baking dish, but most of the recipe is Kalyn's.  (I also used a lower baking temperature because it's my habit when cooking eggs.)  And her addition of Spike as a seasoning was delicious, rather than my usual kosher salt, pepper, and dried or fresh herbs.  Total winner, all around.

kale, scallion, and cheddar frittata:

1 medium bunch fresh kale, stripped from stems and sliced - when I measured it came to      4 cups packed raw kale
2 tablespoons sweet olive oil or soft butter (for the dish)
1 1/2 - 2 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
4 scallions (green onions) sliced
10 large eggs
1 teaspoon Spike seasoning
(optional: 2 teaspoons fresh minced dill)

Preheat oven to 350F.
Use your fingers to butter or oil a glass baking dish - mine was 9x13 inches.

Briefly cook the kale in a few inches of water until wilted.  Drain and set aside.

In a mixer bowl, add the eggs and beat briefly, then add the scallions, Spike seasoning, dill, and cheese.  Fold in the drained kale.

Pour the mixture into the dish, patting in evenly with your (clean) fingers or a spatula.

Bake for 30 minutes, remove to cool before cutting into squares.


One surprising thing about Minneapolis are the wild squirrels and bunny rabbits - they are everywhere, eating bushes and gardens.  I wondered why there were so many hostas here - it's one of the few things they don't eat.  I saw this little fellow leap up and cross to the house next door along the fence two feet away from me.  Bold little critters!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

quick tart and sweet cucumber pickles

A sunny, warm and windy day in Minneapolis - and mobs of people walking in the park and on the sidewalks with huge smiles and nods to each other - myself included.  It truly is a glorious day in early March, if you can believe it.

It put me in mind of picnic fare , and the tart-but-sweet Finnish "salad" I make with dill and cucumbers, more pickles than salad or side and a breeze to make. Minutes later, I was eating them fresh from the bowl, sweet and sour and a little puckery.  All I had to do was slice the cucumbers and measure out the marinade.

This will keep in the fridge (cover with plastic wrap), but we usually eat it all, so that rarely happens.

Quick tart and sweet cucumber pickles

2 large cucumbers, washed and sliced paper thin (not English cucumbers)
1/2 cup white sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 cup plain white vinegar
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

You can either slice the cucumbers by hand , which is tedious but doesn't take very long, or you can use your mandoline or food slicer disc-  faster, but sometimes a little messy.

Pour the sugar and vinegar into a glass or non-reactive bowl (not metal) and stir well. Add the chopped dill and the salt and stir well, then add the cucumbers.

Mix well and place in the fridge to marinate for a a half an hour at least - if there's any left.  You should probably make a double batch, just in case.  I wish I'd thought of that because a third of it is already gone.  Just "tasting" to make sure it was perfect:)

Tonight is the very last episode of Downton Abbey, can you believe it?  I will miss it terribly after all these Sunday night years - did you hear they're making a movie with the same cast?  There's something to look forward to!