Summer Herb Garden Ratatouille

It’s almost the end of July, and that means the long hot days of humidity smelling like wet grass are followed by roaring thunderstorms and heavy rains all through the night. And if you garden, this is most certainly your garden’s favorite time of year!

This summer I set up two planters on our back patio and pretty much threw in whatever plants and seeds I could fit. Along with some festive patio lighting, a clean-up of our table and chairs, and a shrub trimming, the space is finally livable again. It also smells wonderful with a fresh lavender plant, a bountiful herb garden and two very healthy and fast-growing cherry tomato plants beside a lettuce bed and assortment of vegetables that are currently fighting for nutrients and light!

If, like me, your herb garden and zucchini plants are ready to burst forth, this herb garden ratatouille is the perfect summer dish to showcase your summer harvest. I’ve made a few variations of this sliced vegetable ratatouille over the years, but this version from Tasty has a rich sweet tomato sauce base to help soften the vegetable slices as they bake, and is topped with an incredibly robust herb sauce that really celebrated my home-grown herbs. It’s also a beautiful display and can easily be shared for a potluck. My adaptation from the original recipe was to remove the eggplant (not my husband’s favorite vegetable), double up on zucchini and add one sliced potato, but you can easily eliminate that for a simple low-carb summer dish.

Ratatouille Ingredients:

  • 3 large zucchini, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
  • 2 large yellow squash, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
  • 1 Idaho potato, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
  • 6 roma tomatoes, sliced into 1/4″ rounds
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 1 yellow pepper, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, finely diced

Herb Sauce:

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 2 TB olive oil
  • 8-10 fresh basil leaves, diced
  • 2 TB fresh parsley, diced
  • 2 tb fresh thyme, diced

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large pan, add olive oil, garlic, onions and peppers and cook on medium heat until onions are soft and translucent, then stir in crushed tomatoes. Transfer this sauce base to bottom of a large casserole dish. Arrange sliced vegetables in alternating patterns on top, however you like! I prefer rows in a rectangular dish, but you can also arrange in a circular pattern in a round baking dish. Mix herb sauce and add to top of ratatouille. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 40 minutes, then uncover and for additional 20 minutes. Serve while hot, but also tastes great cold the next day!

Final version bubbling up right out of the oven…

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Vegetable Rose Tart

My very dear friend and pastry chef extraordinaire Or’Shaundra offered to host Friendsgiving this year so naturally we challenged ourselves to a sweet and savory pie theme. I’m not generally a huge fan of ricotta cheese, but I’ve been meaning to make this elegant vegetable rose tart which is reminiscent of cheesy blintzes and a vegetable quiche all rolled into one dish which features 10 easy ingredients that just SCREAM holidays like nutmeg, cream and sweet carrots. The real surprising ingredient here is the puff pastry crust which sssssshhhh I bought in the frozen section of the grocery store!

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup cubed fresh mozzarella cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme, leaves stripped
  • salt to taste
  • 6 carrots, assorted colors
  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Press puff pastry into pie dish, trim off excess pastry edges. Cover the pastry with parchment paper and fill with ceramic pie weights (I used ramekins) and bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven; remove parchment paper and pie weights. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees F. Mix ricotta cheese, mozzarella cheese, egg, Parmesan cheese, nutmeg, thyme, and salt together in a bowl. Spoon filling into crust and smooth out the top. Slice carrots and zucchini lengthwise into thin strips using a mandoline then place strips on a microwave-safe plate and cook in the microwave until slightly soft, 1 to 2 minutes. Roll 1 vegetable strip tightly into a rosebud shape. Wrap another strip of the same vegetable around to make a full rose shape. Repeat with remaining strips. Arrange carrot and zucchini roses over the filling in a decorative pattern, alternating colors; brush with olive oil. Bake tart for about 40 minutes.

Recipes to feature soon: apple pie and vegetarian Shepard’s pie! mmmmmmmmmmmm

Vegan Chipotle Lentil Burgers

chipotle lentil burger Asher gets a star on his chalkboard every time he has good behavior, and yesterday’s star featured the phrase “No, thanks!” underneath. We are in the process of teaching him manners, and at the end of the day when he reaches grumpy toddler zombie-exhaustion hour and pulls everything out of his art bin just to get a rise out of me, we quietly review his hard-earned stars for the day and he proudly recalls each story while pointing at the chalkboard. He gets big hugs. It works wonders.

I would like a star for today’s recipe. I can’t remember what wonderful website I found it on, but if you need to kick-up the spice level on your traditional summer veggie burger, this one’s for you! The spicy and smoky chipotle peppers work in harmony with the earthy lentils, and their smooth texture works well with any burger topping.

CHIPOTLE LENTIL BURGERS

1 1/2 cups brown lentils, cooked in 6 cups salted water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small red onion, cut into medium dice
1/2 pound zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2 inch thick
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup lightly packed fresh cilantro, chopped (stems and leaves)
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup chipotles, seeds removed, with adobe sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons red vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons smoked paprika

Put lentils, 6 cups water, and a little salt in a saucepan and bring to a boil. When the water boils, reduce to a low simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but not falling apart, about 30 minutes. Drain lentils well. Preheat a large, heave-bottomed nonstick pan, preferably cast iron, over medium-hugh heat. Saute the onion for about 3 minutes. Add the zucchini, garlic, cilantro, and a pinch of salt, and saute for 7 to 10 minutes, until the zucchini is soft. Transfer the zucchini mixture to a food processor. Add all the other ingredients except for 1/2 cup bread crumbs and pulse until mostly smooth. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Preheat the pan (the same one you already used to saute in is fine) over medium heat. Add the remaining 1/2 cup of bread crumbs to the burger mixture and use a fork to thoroughly combine. Divide the burger mixture into six equal pieces. An easy way to do this is divide it in half, then divide each half into three basically equal portions. You can do that right in the mixing bowl if it’s large enough. Spray the pan with non stick cooking spray. Form the burger portions into patties and cook for about 10 minutes, flipping the burgers often, until they are nicely browned on both sides. Use cooking spray as necessary.

Crunchy Curry Chickpeas, and the Toddler Hunger Games

curry soup
So Asher had a “toddler moment” this week with his eating habits. For 5 days he barely ate and then yesterday he ate about 14 days worth of food all before lunchtime. With his various neon colored plastic bowls scattered around the kitchen floor, he enjoyed samples of raisin bran, eggs, orange flavored cranberries, goldfish crackers, kale, fresh dill, vanilla yogurt, and crunchy bites of curried roasted chickpeas. We had so much fun in the kitchen while my husband painstakingly prepared today’s Crunchy Curry Chickpeas recipe with a pinched forehead from a wonderful cookbook my friend Stephanie gave me called Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi , and I joyfully threw crap in a pot and made something. Like our marriage, these two dishes worked in perfect harmony!

CURRY ZUCCHINI SOUP

6 large zucchinis sliced into moon shapes
1 diced medium onion
5 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons curry powder

In large sauce pot, fry diced onions on medium heat for 3 minutes in cooking spray or olive oil. Then add sliced zucchinis, stirring for 5-7 minutes. Add curry powder and vegetable broth, turn up to a boil for 10 minutes. Turn off heat and use hand blender to puree into creamy soup. Season with salt. Top of with crunchy curry chickpeas.

CRUNCHY CURRY CHICKPEAS

2 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger, or 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
Sea salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lay the drained chickpeas on a dish towel and gently rub each bean to remove any remaining skins, making sure that they are totally dry. In a large bowl, stir together the olive oil, curry powder, thyme, and ginger. Add the chickpeas to the bowl and toss to coat. Spread the chickpeas on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake the chickpeas, tossing them occasionally, until they are light brown and crisped, 40 – 45 minutes. As soon as you remove them from the oven, sprinkle with a teaspoon of salt. Let them cool completely, then serve. They are best eaten the day they are made.