• Sweet Corn Polenta With Eggplant Sauce

    Sweet Corn Polenta With Eggplant Sauce.

    Sweet Corn Polenta With Eggplant Sauce.

    Yes, another vegetable recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi, but this one has more to do with what is going on in our garden than anything. We have eggplant, lots and lots of eggplant. Why? That is very good question. Most years we get a few eggplant, but this year they are taking off. Zucchini and cukes are behind, tomatoes are also slow (even with the heat) but the eggplant are taking over half of a large bed. Gardening always surprises. At least as surprises go, this is of the “pleasant” variety.

    polenta4polenta5polenta6So now we have all these eggplant and need a recipe. Carolyn simply said, “I bet YO has an eggplant recipe”. And, of course, he did. Even better, it combines eggplant with tomatoes and sweet summer corn in a “fresh” polenta dish. We don’t grow our own corn (some epic, EPIC, fails with corn in our past) but there is good local corn at the farmers market so we figured we would try out this dish, and we are glad we did.

    polenta7polenta8This recipe is really two dishes. The first is a corn polenta where you cook fresh corn kernels, then process them and add a bunch of butter and feta cheese. You get something like mashed potatoes with the sweet flavor of good polenta but with a creamy, light(er) consistency. The sauce combines fried eggplant with tomatoes in a quick reduction that yields sweet rich flavors. These dishes are good in combination, but either would work on its own. We served the left over polenta with a bit of bacon and green onion and it was very good. As for the sauce, you could easily serve it with rice or pasta.

    polenta9polenta10polenta11 Continue reading

  • Simple Garden Recipes: Ratatouille

    Ratatouille, an easy version.

    Sometimes we think ratatouille is French for “quick summer vegetable hash”. (It isn’t, but that pretty much describes it). Typical of rustic French cooking, ratatouille combines a number of somewhat basic ingredients and makes them into more than the sum of their parts. For this dish the “parts” are eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic, olives, olive oil and seasoning. And since gardens and farmers markets are brimming with all of those ingredients in late summer, ratatouille is a good way to use up some of the stuff (particularly the less attractive specimens).

    Straight from the summer garden…

    While the list of ingredients for ratatouille is pretty standard, the method for preparing the dish is anything but standard. Some recipes suggest cooking all the vegetables separately and then combining at the end. Some recipes suggest a layered approach. Some bake, some saute’, some simmer. But since we like “simple” garden recipes, we use an adapted Jacques Pepin recipe (all of his recipes work) that simmers all the veggies together in the same pot and serves the ratatouille over pasta or rice. This is a very quick and tasty version of ratatouille that makes up for slightly less defined textures with ease of cooking.

    And this is an easy dish to make. Chop vegetables, mix everything in a pot, simmer for 30 minutes, cool and serve. But there are a few tips and choices that will make the most of the dish. Japanese eggplant will work better, as they are firmer and have fewer seeds. Sweet red peppers round out the flavors more than green peppers. And fresh tomatoes, when in season, with a touch of purée make for brighter flavor than canned tomatoes (but canned are fine). A few briny black olives added at the end balance the sweet flavors. And simple seasoning is often best. We love fresh herbs in our cooking but suggest just a touch of herbs like thyme or marjoram. A little fresh basil at the end adds a lovely aroma. Continue reading