While I love the smell of freshly turned earth, spring onions and the emergence of tiny seedlings, Fall is actually my favourite season in the garden. That’s harvest time and where the efforts of the spring and summer come to fruition. Literally.
I love eating seasonally but I’m a canner and put away veggies in the forms of spaghetti sauce, eggplant caponata, pickles and salsas all summer long. I love filling up my freezer and my pantry shelves with foods that I create and that I know my
family will enjoy.
BUT (and this is the big “but”) no matter how much I serve and stash away, I ALWAYS celebrate the bounty of my annual garden with an old fave. Here’s to an abundance of squash, eggplant, ripe tomato, herbs, onions. I give you: Ratatouille.
I served this recipe annually at Corner Wine Bar. After simmering a cacophony of veggie goodness, we’d pile it into a toasted sourdough bread boule, top it with a bit of shredded Parmesan and fresh basil. Hearty, a gorgeous meal and brimming with the bounty of the season. Ratatouille is a bright and chunky vegetable stew.
One large eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
6 T olive oil
2 zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 yellow squash, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 yellow onions, chopped
1 each of red, orange and yellow bell pepper, chopped
5 large cloves garlic, minced
2 large carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
2# fresh, ripe tomato, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 small can of tomato paste
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped for garnish
Shredded Parmesan cheese, optional for garnish
Plenty of salt and pepper, to your taste
Heat olive oil in a large stockpot. Add eggplant and cook until it begins to brown, stirring constantly. Add onion and continue to cook over medium until the onion becomes translucent.
Next, add the squash, carrots, bell peppers. Continue to cook, over medium heat, stirring for about four minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients, stirring periodically until the stew comes to a gentle boil. At this point, reduce heat to low and simmer until all veggies are tender, about 25 minutes.
You can cool the stew and chill it to reheat later, but I prefer to serve it hot.
It is excellent ladled over a buttered baked potato Or served in a hollowed out and toasted bread boule.
Either way is fantastic, but be sure to drizzle a bit more olive oil over the top, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.
Pro Tip: This dish is very freezer friendly. After it has cooled completely, freeze it in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to three months.
My pizza oven project came to fruition over the last year. For those who haven’t seen me carrying on about it on FB, I’ve built a wood-fired oven in my backyard as an addition to my outdoor kitchen. I’ve spent a few months now perfecting my dough and though it would be fun to share the results with you. And who doesn’t love a pizza party? My apologies! I've been up slacking big-time with my blog posts since I've been so busy making pizza. I'm back in the saddle and have pie-making tips to share.
No matter where you plan to cook you pie(s), a great crust is essential. I like one that is chewy, flavourful, pretty thin and gets those lovely big air bubbles. The following recipe is what I’ve come to like best. You can make it ahead and keep it in the fridge for a few days, making it even more versatile. I prefer it after it has proofed in the 'fridge for at least a day. I also normally don't use much sugar when I cook, but I like it here. Not only does it really get the yeast active and bubbly, but it creates a nicely browned crust.
4 cups flour (I’ve used both a “OO” Pizza flour and all-purpose- both work)
2 cups warm water
2 t active, dry yeast
2 T sea salt (using a smoked salt is also tasty)
2 T granulated sugar
Combine in a large bowl, or stand mixer. Mix until the dough forms and knead for 8 minutes- if kneading by hand, in the bowl or on the counter is fine. The dough should have “picked up” all the flour and the bowl should be clean. Your dough should be pretty firm and smooth.
Drizzle a little oil (I like olive) in your bowl and place dough ball in to rise for about an hour.
At this point, divide into portions ( I can get 8, 10’ pies from this recipe) and on a floured surface, begin to tap out the dough with your finger tips.
Place the dough onto a lightly greased cookie sheet and top as desired. Bake in a preheated (500 degrees) on the middle rack for 8-10 minutes. Slice and serve immediately.
I like to have dough set out and ingredients so that everyone can make their own pie. Of course, taking turns means that you have to man the oven for a bit, but it is a fun party and always a hit.
Great combos that I love include:
This is a great party to host on football nights with a few beers or a good bottle of red wine.
Elizabeth Morse cooks professionally, is an Advanced Master Gardener and lover of all things local.