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.)
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.
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.
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 (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
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.