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!

Follow me on Twitter @coltkels