World Cup Party: Catalan Ratatouille
This post is an excerpted version of my review of Martha Rose Shulman’s Mediterranean Harvest that I posted on 101 Cookbooks Library. However, as far as I know, that site is still in testing and not accessible by all (although Heidi’s main blog 101coobooks.com is well worth checking out), so I figured I would re-post it here as well. When that site is open, I’ll pass the word on–it is great way to find out about great (or overrated) cookbooks.
There are some drawbacks to having an embarrassingly large cookbook collection: you need ample storage; you are embarrassed to tell new acquaintances exactly how many you have so you begin talking very vaguely when it comes to numbers; you sometimes can’t remember which book that recipe is in when you need it; and you forget about perfectly wonderful cookbooks you bought but never really used.
On the other hand there are moments when it is absolutely delightful to have an embarrassingly large cookbook collection: when it is the World Cup final game and you have decided two days before to make tapas and need to find some good recipes, now!; when you are looking up at your collection you notice a Mediterranean cookbook you haven’t touched since buying it (who knows why) that happens to provide almost all the recipes you need for your successful World Cup lunch with friends.
Our menu included from this cookbook alone: Sangria; Catalan Ratatouille; Giant Favas with Mint (I had a spot of trouble with this one, but not to be written off entirely because of my poor dried-bean skills); Mushrooms in Garlic Sauce; Spicy Potatos with Aioli. We also made grilled herb shrimp (from Barefoot Contessa Parties!), cooked up some local sausage, and put out some olives and spiced almonds.
Of all those, one of my favorites was the Catalan Ratatouille, which we served on toasted bread slices drizzled with olive oil and rubbed with garlic. Even though the World Cup is long finished, there are still plenty of reasons to make some tapas to share with friends, so I thought I’d share the recipe.
adapted from Mediterranean Harvest (p72)
3/4 lb (1 med) eggplant, peeled and diced very small (I found a regular vegetable peeler worked very well for peeling the eggplant)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water
2 red bell peppers, peeled*, seeded, and thinly sliced or diced
1 green bell pepper, peeled*, seeded, and thinly sliced or diced
3 medium onions, very finely chopped
1 medium zucchini, peeled* and very finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 can (14 oz) tomatoes, drained (i think I used whole romas)
*if you see an astrix next to the words peeled, that means I didn’t. It cooks for so long the peels break down so much you don’t notice them at all.
1. Lay eggplant pieces on some paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Drain for 30 minutes, then pat dry with paper towels.
2. Place the eggplant, olive oil, water, bell pepper, onions, zucchini, and garlic in an enameled cast-iron Dutch oven or an earthenware casserole set over a flame-tamer (or in my case, my un-enameled cast-iron Dutch oven on my stove top). Add 1 tsp salt and pepper to taste, reduce to low, cover, and cook until soft, about 1 hour, stirring gently and occasionally. Add the tomatoes, cover again, and cook until mixture has reduced to a thick relish, 2 to 3 hours (or 4), stirring occasionally. If you need more liquid, add some water, if you need less, turn up the head at the end to boil off some of the liquid. Cool before serving.