I recently picked up Julia Child's cookbook 'Mastering The Art of French Cooking' again after a very long time. Fond, fond memories poured forth from the stained pages. The spine has come loose; the book is worse for wear. I could replace it with a fresh copy, one of the recent editions, but I probably won't. It's like a comfortable pair of jeans. Like an old friend. I looked at the copyright and was shocked to see that the edition I have is the twenty-ninth, and was published in 1977 -- the year I graduated from high school, and the year that I left home and family to go live with and cook for a French family in France. I actually used a copy of 'Mastering' that Madame Zundel, an American woman married to a Frenchman, had in her kitchen when I did the family's cooking. I wonder how many other Americans were introduced to French cooking in France while using Julia's cooking bible? I bought the book when I returned from France in 1978 so I have had it for thirty-one years. An old friend indeed.
Since I started the Auntie Em's produce delivery - where I get a nice selection of farmers market produce delivered to me once a week - I have been trying very hard to eat it all. To not throw anything out. And now in week five I have for the most part succeeded. The amount of fruits and vegetables I receive is more than enough for myself. If I didn't have Robert coming over a few times a week I probably wouldn't be able to eat it all. Between the two of us we manage to get through it. However, this last week I did have more than I knew we could handle. So I decided to make something that would use up all the vegetables I had: tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, zucchini and onions. Ratatouille has all those vegetables in it. It would also be a perfect summer dish as it can be eaten either hot or cold. I grabbed 'Mastering The Art,' flipped to the recipe for ratatouille, and spent an afternoon in the warm embrace of Julia. What could be more appropriate in what has seemingly become the unofficial month of Julia Child?
Here's the recipe:
From 'Mastering The Art of French Cooking'
Preparation Time: 3-4 hours
1/2 lb. of eggplant
1/2 lb. of zucchini
7 Tb of olive oil, more if needed, as directed
1/2 lb. of yellow onions, thinly sliced
2 (about 1 cup) green bell peppers, sliced
2 cloves garlic, mashed
1 lb. firm, ripe, red tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and juiced
3 Tb parsley, minced
Salt and pepper, as directed
Peel the eggplant and cut into lengthwise slices 3/8-inch thick, about 3 inches long, and 1 inch wide. Scrub the zucchini, slice off the two ends, and cut the zucchini into slices about the same size as the eggplant slices. Place the vegetables in a 3-quart, porcelain or stainless steel mixing bowl and toss with 1 tsp. salt. Let stand for 3o minutes. Drain. Dry each slice in a towel.
In a 10- to 12-inch enameled skillet sauté, one layer at a time, the eggplant, and then the zucchini in hot olive oil for about a minute on each side to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish.
Slice the tomato pulp into 3/8-inch strips. Lay them over the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes have begun to render juice. Uncover, baste the tomatoes with the juices, raise the heat and boil for several minutes, until juice has almost entirely evaporated.
Place a third of the tomato mixture in the bottom of 2 1/2 quart fireproof casserole and sprinkle over it 1 tablespoon of parsley. Arrange half of the eggplant and zucchini on top, the half the remaining tomatoes and parsley. Put in the rest of the eggplant and zucchini, and finish with the remaining tomatoes and parsley.
Cover the casserole and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover, tip casserole and baste with the rendered juices. Correct seasoning, if necessary. Raise heat slightly and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes more, basting several more times, until the juices have evaporated leaving a spoonful of flavored olive oil. Be careful of your heat; do not let the vegetables scorch in the bottom of the casserole.
Set aside uncovered. Reheat slowly at serving time, or serve cold.
Here's to Julia and, as she would say: Bon Appétit!
My Status: enjoying all the summer produce; writing, cooking, blogging and eating!
Upcoming Posts: The Wedge Salad: a recipe, the origins of the salad and of Iceberg lettuce. Review: 'The Barcelona Cookbook'.