November 2, 2012
Page 74, Ottolenghi
Celebrations deserve Plenty! And tonight’s celebration was both a birthday and anniversary dinner for our dear friends, Gnomes and the Pirate. I had been planning an elaborate making of a dinner FULL of vegetables and goodness, so Ottolenghi’s ratatouille seemed like the perfect recipe to tackle. At the end of a long work week that I was BEYOND ready to bid adieu to, I thought I would be done with work at 4:00 and could shop and chop to prepare. As with many things in life, this did not go exactly as hoped. 5:00 P.M. found me still on a work call, unshowered, and without the ingredients I still needed to make Tamara’s ratatouille. In my world, Plenty often also involves lots of last minute improvisation, and this version of Plenty has to be called (not really) Tamara’s ratatouille. Thankfully, sometimes improvisation leads to even better results than anything that could have been planned – and such was the case with the recipe (using the term loosely).
So, a quick text to say we would be a bit later than I had originally planned, and a scan of our fridge to find what I had to work with and B and I were off! She sous-chefed for me, and soon the kitchen was delicious smelling and we were tasting bits of this and that and getting pretty excited about how the substitutions were coming together. I will put the *actual* recipe below, but you all should know that we had none of the red pepper, zucchini, or eggplant. We also had no french beans, but happened to have some frozen green beans left over from a recent run at green bean casserole to soothe our childhood cravings. Instead of the missing vegetables, we had cauliflower, sweet potato, carrots, mushrooms, and some fresh oregano. So I just substituted those things for what was missing and added them to the parsnips, winter squash, potatoand garden tomatoes that *were* actually in the recipe. It was a huge hit! The flavors in Ottolenghi’s sauce were spot on – and would be with ANY combination of vegetables you have at hand. And? the fact that ratatouille is essentially overcooked vegetables meant that there was time to shower while they simmered for the first 30 minutes and then to throw together a salad with romaine and Jaime’s fabulous pears while they baked for the last 30 minutes. A perfect dish if you need both the room for improvisation and self-preparation before a lovely evening with friends.
It transported perfectly in my favorite Catherine Holm baking dish (left to me by my Mimi and one of my treasured pieces) and was joined by a fantastic baked feta/tomato/olive dish that the Pirate made, the thrown-together salad, some grated fresh parmesan, and a crusty loaf of bread to make a totally warm and tasty celebration of plenty. Top it off with some fabulous red wine, sea salt brownies (worthy of their own post which I think you can find here http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2012/08/my-favorite-brownies/ ) and the company of wonderful friends, and it was a perfect Friday night.