Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Green thumbs and ratatouille.



My parents have this thing for gardening. My mom grows small jungles of orchids throughout the house, which is no easy feat for the average gardener, but she just looks at the things and they grow, just like that. It's remarkable, really. My dad likes to stick stuff in the ground, simply to see what happens -- the top of a pineapple, for example, or a random onion. He has a lovely vegetable garden, though he currently grows neither pineapples nor onions.



I grow nothing. Well, I take that back. Right now, I have two plants: a jade plant and a pothos plant, both of which are supposedly impossible to kill, but I'm sure I'll find a way, with time. Because I have inherited approximately zero of the green thumb trait my parents proudly display. My first plant that lived longer than a year (!) was a basil plant, and that only lasted so long because Murdo had attached a sentimental value to it and refused to get rid of it, despite my complaining that it had become merely a big, brown stick with limp, green flags of surrender clinging pathetically to the branches. (He finally let go a few weeks ago.)

summer veggies!

The truth is, I've never been much of a foliage kinda gal. Flowers are pretty and all, and I take lots of pictures of them, and I'm trying to make a habit of keeping fresh cut flowers on the mantle because they certainly brighten up a room, but growing them myself? It just doesn't really do it for me. Unless, of course, the plant is edible. The satisfaction one gets from cooking and eating a vegetable she grew herself has to be just plain incredible, and I want in. Big time.

chopped.
Ratatouille.

I'll certainly give basil another shot next summer, and now that I have a nice big porch, possibly even tomatoes. I have to take small steps in order to get to the final destination: my very own vegetable garden, overflowing with herbs and summer squash and green beans and cucumbers and peppers. But first, I should probably learn how to pot a plant.

Ratatouille.

Until then, I'm welcoming the bounty of other people's gardens with wide open arms. It seems as though everyone who walks through our door has some lovely vegetables for us, and when my kitchen counter is filling with bowls and bowls of gorgeous summer veggies, there's really only one thing a girl can do about it.

Ratatouille.

Ratatouille (adapted from La Tartine Gourmande)
Try to use as many colors as possible -- greens, yellows, reds, orange -- and chop the veggies in equal sizes. This dish goes perfectly with a big hunk of crusty garlic bread to soak up the sauce, and the leftovers can be tossed with pasta for a summery lunch in the park.

2 medium zucchini, sliced
1 large eggplant, chopped into 1-inch cubes
1 1/2 bell peppers, chopped
5 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1-2 sprigs of thyme
olive oil
salt and pepper

Sprinkle eggplant generously with salt in a colander and set aside. After 30 minutes, rinse and dry the eggplant.

Heat oil in a large, thick-bottomed pot. Add zucchini and eggplant and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Heat more oil in same pot and add garlic, peppers, and onions. Cook until soft, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and mix well. Cook tomatoes for 5 minutes, then add zucchini and eggplant. Add the thyme and bay leaf, and season with salt and pepper. Cook on low, uncovered, for 1 hour. Remove thyme and bay leaf right before devouring.

This probably makes about 4 servings, when served with salad and bread. Or it can feed two for dinner with leftovers for 3-4 more meals throughout the week.

7 comments:

  1. This is on the menu for tonight--my wife just came home from the farmer's market with a lovely eggplant and some tomatoes. Yum.

    ReplyDelete
  2. When I was younger, I managed to kill every plant I tried to care for---many of them were cacti. Yes, I know, pathetic. A couple of years ago, I started a garden, without any expectations in mind. I'm sure the combination of fertilizer, sun and soil made the garden thrive. I swear, however, that my thumb has taken on a light shade of green. There's hope for us all, lady! Until the day your own garden is thriving, definitely take advantage of the generosity of other gardeners.

    ReplyDelete
  3. mmm big pot of veggies, a dream dinner! I tried this last season to start a mini vegetable garden, and the ONLY thing that worked for me was the basil! I have a dependable fig and peach tree, but I don't take credit for those. Best of luck to you ~

    ReplyDelete
  4. Absolutely love the image of your dad planting tops of pineapple and parts of onions--that is EXACTLY something I would do. Truly. On the other hand, I'm not much of a green thumb myself. I grow tomatoes with my parents' help, and I bought a Meyer lemon tree in March or so (mail ordered) and have been watching it grow green leaves--no fruit--ever since, not really sure when this will change.

    I have you to thank for making me consider the other thing of vegetables--eating and enjoying them--and this has been another kind of journey, but a good one.

    Love that you have a patio now. Love it.

    ReplyDelete
  5. mitch - awesome! it's such a great way to use up summer veggies.

    jennifer - thanks for encouraging words! i can't wait for the day i can eat a vegetable i grew all by myself!

    sprouted kitchen - thank you! i think my basil died because i was harvesting wrong. that, and i kept forgetting to water it. oops. but there's always next year!

    shanna - i'm so happy you've found a new love for vegetables. really. and even happier that you've found inspiration in my own veggie love. vegetables are FUN! :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I can't wait to make this! Much like you, I have lofty goals for gardening, and a stunted, brown tomato plant and brown twigs with greenish "leaves" that was once a Trader Joe's basil plant. (see "greenish thumb" posts on my blog)

    This is totally my kind of recipe though! Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  7. kim - just checked out your greenish thumb posts and love how you blog about your planting and kitchen adventures. i'm obsessed with kitchens and spend way too much time dreaming about what my perfect kitchen would look like. glad to have found your blog, too!

    ReplyDelete