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    « Remember White Bread? | Main | Guest Post: A Tex-Mex Moonlight Chef »
    Wednesday
    Jan252012

    Greek-Inspired Ratatouille 

    Don't you want to just dive into this pan of sauteed vegetables?! They're a thing of beauty, despite the lousy photography.

    I've been on a seafood kick recently. Last week, we had tuna steaks with a jicama and fennel slaw. On Monday night, we had swordfish and shrimp marinated in white wine. I then sent them into the oven to slowly roast in a sauce of (more) white wine, plumped raisins, diced tomatoes, capers and sauteed onions. The end result was deliciously flaky and flavorful fish, topped with plenty of fresh mint, which really didn't need a side. With a little rice, this would've been more than enough. 

    But I had some large Yukon gold potatoes left over from a ill-informed Fresh Direct order. Not ill-informed per se, more like I mistakenly ordered potatoes by number instead of pounds - therefore ended up with 8 very large and looming Yukons. We don't eat a lot of potatoes, despite my husband's German background and I couldn't figure out what to make with the extras, despite the heady temptation of creamy mashed potatoes, cheesy and bubbly gratin and hearty baked versions.

    However, the potatoes have been sneaking their way into turkey chili and other soups. But I've noticed the diner tends to put down his or her fork half-way through. "The potatoes make it so hot." or "I'm full already!" So I've just let them sit on the counter, slowly awaiting their spoiling doom.

    But with Greek-inspired sauteed vegetables, the addition of potatoes provides a real backbone to the dish. Without them, you'd miss the substance and the heft. They're creamy and crispy and hold in the delicious Mediterranean flavors, which somehow tend to wash over other vegetables like bell peppers and zucchini. The potatoes are actually essential.

    The key to this dish is to let the vegetables really soften and become meltingly tender. They will still retain a bit of their texture but you'll extract more flavor by letting them get nice and juicy. And the feta cheese crumbled on top really makes the dish. You can skip it, but I don't think that's a good idea. The wine is an important step: it creates a syrupy, vegetable reduction which coats the dish and helps the vegetables glide across the bottom of the pan.

    Serve these Greek-inspired ratatouille with simply-prepared fish or chicken. I'm planning to toss my leftovers into a pasta salad, along with some chopped kalamata olives and the remaining feta.

    Greek-Inspired Ratatouille

    Serves 4

    1 tablespoon olive oil

    1 yellow onion, chopped

    1 medium Yukon gold potato, diced

    1 red bell pepper, diced

    1 zucchini, diced

    1/4 cup dry white wine

    1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped

    1 teaspoon dried basil

    3/4 teaspoon dried oregano

    1 dash crushed red pepper flakes

    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

    1/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

    1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled.

    1. Heat the olive oil until shimmering over medium-high heat in a large saute pan. Add the onions and potatoes and saute for approx. 7 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to tenderize and stick to the bottom of the pan.

    2. Add the remaining diced vegetables and cook for another 3 - 5 minutes, until they've softened. If the vegetables seem to be sticking too much to the pan, turn the heat down to medium.

    3. Add the wine and use a wooden spoon to scrap up any caramelized bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook until the wine is reduced by 1/2, about 3 - 4 minutes.

    4. Add the mint, spices and seasoning. Turn the heat to medium-low to low, and allow the vegetables to continue to cook, about 15 more minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. 

    5. At this point, the vegetables should be incredibly aromatic and soft. Test the potatoes - if you can easily pierce through a couple of pieces with a fork and they crumble, they're ready. If there's resistance, cook longer and test again.

    6. Crumble the feta cheese on top. Serve with roasted fish or chicken.

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