Just about this time last year, I was in France. Ahhhhh. One of the most amazing and wonderful things about travel is seeing how other cultures cook and eat. France is one of my favorite places to visit, not only for the way they use whole foods but the value and beauty that seems to appear everywhere! Fruits and veggies that are local and organic are very important to French cuisine.
As a healthy chef and a breast cancer survivor, I am always looking for a new way to use veggies. I’m not a vegetarian, but I look to plant based sources for most of my proteins. France always provides beautiful inspiration for months after I return. I created this recipe after tasting ratatouille pasta in a small restaurant in Provence. They used one of my favorite ways of cooking vegetables in this dish – roasting. If you like the caramelized, concentrated crunch of sweet and savory veggies, this recipe is for you.
There is a variety of familiar and not-as familiar ingredients in this recipe, but all can be found at your local grocery store. For example, have you tried fennel? Its one of my favorite crispy veggies, and I included it in this salad. Fennel is a hardy perennial herb with leafy fronds. It tastes like a cross between celery and cabbage with a slight hint of licorice. For a delicious change, try substituting chopped fennel the next time a recipe calls for celery. You get a little more nutrition and a lot more taste.
Red Onions add color and flavor to any dish. Plus they are a great source of quercetin, a powerful antioxidant. Use them in salads – or in baked or roasted fare like this recipe. Although they lose some of their red color when cooked, they still maintain a sweet mild flavor, and can be substituted for yellow onions in almost any recipe. Capers are another quercetin powerhouse! (Who knew?) If you like pickles or olives, you’ll like capers.
Try serving this ratatouille topping grains instead of pasta. Many grains like farro or amaranth have been around for hundreds of years, and are just waiting for you to discover them. All or easy to make, and keep well in the fridge, yielding a super start for salads, soups and wraps during the workweek. I always make a double recipe. It will keep well in your refrigerator for 3 – 4 days.
Whether you are finished with treatment and feel well enough for cooking, or have friends that are asking you, “What sounds good?” Roasted Ratatouille is a great recipe to print and use often. See if you don’t agree!
Flavorful Roasted Ratatouille
1 Zucchini, in 1-inch cubes
1 Yellow Squash, in 1-inch cubes
1 Fennel Bulb, in 1 by 2 inch strips
1 Small Eggplant, Unpeeled, in 1-inch cubes
10 Grape Tomatoes, halved
2 TB Olive Oil
Sea Salt and Black Pepper
1 Cup Minced Red Onions
1 TB Minced Garlic
4 Cups Chopped, Seeded Ripe Roma Tomatoes
1 TB Thyme Leaves
1 TB Balsamic Vinegar
½ Cup Capers (Rinsed and Drained)
½ Cup Chopped Kalamata Olives
2 Roasted Red Peppers, Chopped
4 Cups Cooked Farro, Quinoa or other Grain
Step One Preheat the oven to 425F. In a large bowl; toss the zucchini, squash, fennel, eggplant and cherry tomatoes with 1 TB of the oil, salt and black pepper. Spread on a sheet pan in a single layer and roast for about 30 minutes, until soft and very browned.
Step Two To prepare the tomato sauce, heat the remaining TB of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, chopped tomatoes, and the thyme leaves, stirring to combine. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the capers and the balsamic vinegar.
Step Three Add the vegetables and peppers to the tomato sauce. Adjust the seasoning as necessary. Top the cooked grains with the sauce.
Healthy Chef Partyologist Nancy Waldeck loves sharing delicious, healthy recipes with other survivors. You can enjoy her weekly e-newsletter by visiting tasteandsavor.com and signing up for the Friday Four.