No Rat in this Ratatouille

 

I have wanted to make the infamous French ratatouille since I read the book Lunch in Paris.   Elizabeth Bard wrote a great book about her time in Paris and between chapters she shares her recipes, one being a ratatouille recipe.  Literally this is my dream book; what could be better than pages filled with her tale of falling in love in Paris divided by pages filled with amazing recipes!  But I guess if I am being a little more honest with myself I have wanted to make this dish ever since I watched the Disney movie Ratatouille!  I was also super excited to make this because I have never cooked with saffron.  Saffron is the dried stigmas from the flower saffron crocus.  Saffron has long been the most expensive spice by weight and is native to Southwest Asia.  I found joy in asking my typical pilot dad, meaning cheap, to go pick up the saffron.  I’ve heard Giada and Ina from the Food Network tell me frequently how expensive this spice is but that is just a must in certain recipes, but when I got the call from my dad asking me how much I thought this .06 ounce jar of saffron cost I was shocked that is was $16.

 

Ratatouille is a traditional French dish made up of stewed vegetables from Nice.  This recipe was seriously great and easy to make! You know how you get a little ahead of yourself when cooking a recipe for the first time and start sweating the onions way too soon because the red peppers haven’t had enough time to sit for the skin to start to peel? Yes I’m speaking from experience but this recipe is so simple because you add an ingredient then let it sauté for 10 minuets which is the perfect amount of time to get the next ingredient ready!
This dish was bursting with all the juices of the vegetables and dripping with flavor.  This dish was a perfect side for a summer night.  Absolutely no complaints!

Elizabeth says it only gets better as it sits so I was so excited to have it for lunch the next day but being a pilot’s daughter I’m never in one place to long and forgot to take it for lunch on my way to the airport. So my dad got to have it all to himself, I guess that is karma for making him buy something that almost gave him a heart attack because of the price!

Summer Ratatouille

Secret ingredients: a good pinch of saffron at the end, and, “if the vegetable lack sunshine,” a cube of sugar.  I add the sugar anyway—because who couldn’t use a little extra sunshine?

1/3 cup olive oil (don’t skimp, you can’t add more later)

2 ½ pounds onions (7-8 medium) thinly sliced

1 ½ pounds eggplant (2 small), cut into vertical chunks about ½ inch by 2 inches

1 ½ pounds sweet peppers (3 small; 2 yellow, 1 red), seeded and sliced

1 pound zucchini (4 small), quartered the long way and cut into thirds

2 pounds sun-ripened tomatoes (6 medium), coarsely chopped, with their juice

5-6 sprigs fresh thyme

2good pinches saffron (1/4 teaspoon)

1 cube sugar (a scant teaspoon)

Warm the oil over medium heat in your largest frying pan.  Add the onions.  Sauté, stirring occasionally until they are wilted and just beginning to color (about 25 minuets).  Don’t skimp on the time here, as the onions need to sweeten; they provide the base for the whole dish.

Add the eggplant. Stir to coat.  Sauté 10 minutes.

Add the peppers.  You might need to lower the heat to maintain just a bit of a sizzle.  Sauté 10 minuets.  The peppers will release some water, which will start the sauce.

Add the zucchini. Sauté 10 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and fresh thyme.  Heat until the tomatoes release some juice.  Dissolve the saffron and sugar in the sauce.  Cover cook for 10 minutes.  Leave to cool.

Ratatouille tastes even better the next day.  You can use it as a side dish, pasta sauce, filling for a quiche or an omelet, or over quinoa for a full vegetarian meal.  It freezes beautifully, so make a few batches in the summer, before the tomatoes disappear.

Yield: Serves 8

Tip: Buy 2 smaller zucchini (or eggplants), instead of 1 large one.  Smaller veggies have less water and a more concentrated flavor.

 

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Forgotten in Detroit

 

Above: Kiawah Island

Below: View from the restaurant The Wreck

One of the great joys of flying as a stand by non-revenue passenger is being forgotten.  It is a lesson I should’ve learned much earlier but being forgotten seems to take me by surprise every time; every time those gate agents forget to give me a seat before they shut the door.  I finally learned my lesson coming home from South Carolina after a lovely 4th of July weekend spent celebrating in Charleston and Kiawah Island.  It was one of those days where the only thing I could hear all day was my bed calling, no screaming my name.  By this point I had only been home for a little over a week since May 16th so, not complaining, but like I said I was ready for MY bed.

 

Dock in Charleston                                         Battery Street

Things go perfectly in Charleston and I am headed to Detroit for a short layover until my flight to Flint where my little sister was waiting to pick me up.  I am watching on my computer as the flight becomes over booked and I feel the frustration building as I realize the next flight to Flint is at 10:30 pm and it is 4:30 pm right now.  But I’m also very thankful for all the things I get to do so I quickly stop being negative and think if I don’t get on it will be fine and I’ll just re-read my book.

The door closes so I walk up to the gate agent and ask if they will put my name on the list for the next flight.  He looks at me and asks my name and I give it to him and this is where the story goes south, not good south like South Carolina, but bad south like the tears are brewing and ready to spill over.  He says “Why didn’t you come up earlier, there were four seats open on this flight?”  I say, “I was here the whole time and it’s your job to call me up and give me a seat!”  Being the least emotional of the three Colt siblings I found it shocking when I was getting very angry at this man and am talking as if I was bawling my eyes but no actual tears were coming out, so basically I just sounded like a lunatic.  But in my defense all he kept saying was “you could’ve gotten on, you could’ve gotten on.”  I finally screamed at him “stop saying that because I didn’t get on so it doesn’t make me feel better to know that I could have.”

So I found myself with five and half hours to kill in the Detroit airport and feeling incredibly sorry for myself, so of course I decided I was going to go eat some pity food.  So here is my advice part of this post.  If you find yourself looking for food in DTW go to the area where the signs tell you to go for baggage claim.  As your walking that way will see a duty free store on your right, then right after that an inlet with a Starbucks, Burger King, and the hidden gem Musashi.  It is a Japanese cuisine restaurant that is better than fast food. I always end up getting Burger King or Wendy’s in the airport and feel awful about it, but this is good airport food.  It is a little expensive but like I said before it’s airport food.

 

I got on the 10:30 pm flight and was never so nervous about missing my name being called.  So lesson learned- I will be going up to the gate agent and bugging them every time they say final boarding call!

If you want any suggestions on where to eat in any other airport let me know!

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Midsommar Celebrations

A is Stockholm B is Öregrund

I traveled the distance to Stockholm Sweden for the Midsommar celebrations.  This is when the Swedish celebrate the summer solstice. The summer solstice marks the longest day of the year. This holiday is huge in Scandinavia and is only second to Christmas. Sweden is located much farther north than some other Eurpoean coutries like England so in Stockholm it stays light for most of the day during the summer and vice versa in the winter.  The first night we went out was so fascinating to me, it started to get dark around midnight, and then when we walked out of a bar at three in the morning in was light again! Amazing! This year the solstice fell on the 21st of June and the weekend following we partied!

 

We traveled north for Midsommar to the city of Öregrund. We met up with a group of people at a friend’s house.  He had a main house and two guesthouses.  It was beautiful.  Everyone was excited to be off work and everyone truly enjoyed themselves on the first night.

 

The next day was the day we celebrated Midsommar.   The day began with the girls gathering flowers for their crowns, and a few people starting to make the maypole.


We then had a lunch, but before we ate we sat around the table and sang songs, and took a shot with each song (here I would advise half shots or even faking a shot).  Then lunch was served. We had lovely typical Swedish cuisine such as pickled herring with different sauces like mustard and dill.  It was delicious.

We digested, then the games began! Teams were formed and we played silly games such as seeing who could hammer a nail in wood the fastest or what boy put on tights the quickest.  There was also a beer-drinking contest amongst the girls.  I won- I didn’t go to Michigan State University for nothing!  We celebrated past the sunrise, but like I said before, it rises at three am so that was easy.

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Fika-The Greatest Concept Yet

The one thing I wanted to bring back more than souvenirs from Sweden was their tradition of fika.  Fika means having a break, which normally is referring to a coffee break with others.  They enjoy coffee with traditional Swedish cinnamon rolls and other pastries, or they will eat sandwiches such as Räkmacka.  Räkmack is a traditional open faced shrimp sandwich. This is a typical Swedish sandwich served and can also be found in a salmon version, which is very popular and delicious there.  Fika as a word is an example of back slang in the 19th century.  Syllables of the word were reversed, so fika was derived from kaffi which is an earlier variant for the Swedish word coffee.

Räkmacka          

When I arrived in Stockholm finally, my friend Kyle who I went with, told me about fika and how into this concept the Swedes were. It sounded to me like a normal coffee break that we would have in the states.  One where we would quickly run out and grab coffee in the afternoon.  I learned after one day that it was quite a bit different.  First, it is not a quick run for coffee, it can be about a two hour break and they don’t do it every once in a while; it is a very frequent occurrence.  The Swedish girl we were staying with over there, Rosanna, was addicted.  Kyle and I would meet up with her for lunch so she would have about an hour lunch break and then we would call her later and where else would she be than on a fika. Same thing would happen with Rosanna’s friend Tess.  She would showed us around Stockholm sometimes  and would unquestionably have a fika with us. Later when we would talk to her and find out how she spent the rest of her day it would include another fika.  Ahh the lovely Europeans and their relaxed work style, I could definitely get used to this.

 

This is at Strandbryggan Sea Club where we had our first fika. If you find yourself in Stockholm you must go! It is right on the river and is beautiful and relaxing!

This is the Swedish name for cinnamon rolls.

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