Ratatouille with Coconut Curry Sauce

I feel bad calling myself a cooking enthusiast since I had not even heard of ratatouille until I saw the Disney movie. After seeing a rat¬†prepare it, I thought, “I could do that.”

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But then, a lot of time went by. (A LOT of time. I just checked, and that movie was released in 2007 – yikes!)

So seven years later, I got my act together and made a decision to prepare this undoubtedly delicious meal for my in-laws, who were visiting from New York. I learned the basic gist of the recipe, and I was only feeling a little apprehensive about being able to pull it off.

But then, I was totally sidelined. The power of suggestion is absurdly effective. One second, I am happily going about my day thinking about trees and flowers (not really, just trying to make a point here), and the next, I see a commercial for pizza and suddenly, that is ALL I WANT.

As I was preparing for ratatouille-making, a friend happened to mention having had a delicious coconut curry dish at lunch.

Well. I’ll be damned. I LOVE coconut curry.

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So, since I was already feeling overwhelmed by the recipe, I made an effortless decision to swap out the sauce for a coconut curry tomato sauce.

I’ll tell you – it was an amazing decision. This dish does not disappoint, and was a hit with my in-laws (at least that’s what they told me) ūüôā

Quick Disclaimer: If you don’t own a mandolin, this recipe is still possible to make – it just might drive you crazy. Make sure you have a sharp knife, at the very least!

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What You Need for the Ratatouille:

  • 1 medium zucchini squash, ends cut off
  • 1 medium summer squash, ends cut off
  • 1 large tomato
  • 1 each red bell pepper, green bell pepper and yellow bell pepper, tops cut off and de-seeded but still bell-shaped
  • 2¬†cups dry Jasmine or white rice

What You Need for the Coconut Curry Sauce:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 jalepeno, minced (seeded if desired)
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced (powdered ginger will also work fine)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp curry powder
  • 1¬†28-ounce can diced tomatoes and their juices (this is equal to 3 1/2 cups diced tomatoes if you wish to stay away from canned foods)
  • 1 14-ounce can unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste

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What You Do:

Preheat oven to 400F

In a large wok or skillet, pour in the olive oil and lightly simmer the onion, garlic, jalepeno and fresh ginger until soft. (If you only have powdered ginger, add it later).

Add the tomatoes and curry powder (also add ginger powder if using).  Turn heat up to bring to a slight boil and stir well.

Add the coconut milk and sugar, stirring well. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes.

Set aside, but keep warm on low heat.

Using a mandolin, thinly slice all of your vegetables. As I said, if you don’t have a mandolin, you can get away with cutting everything by hand. Try to make very thinly-sliced pieces. Thicker pieces really only impact how long the dish will take to cook.

Layer the vegetables in alternating order along the bottom of a large baking dish or dutch oven. Each time you complete a layer, spoon about 1 cup of the still-hot coconut curry tomato sauce over the veggies.

Continue layering and alternately pouring with sauce until the veggies have been used up. Depending on the size of your baking dish, you may find you have vegetables left over. This is ok! They make great snacks, after all!

Pour remaining sauce over the top, gently poking apart the vegetables to let it seep through.

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Cover, and place the whole concoction into the oven for about 20-30 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened and are easily pierced with a fork. You may find it takes slightly longer depending, again, on the size of your baking dish and thickness of your layers.

While the dish is baking, cook your rice according to package directions.

When everything is ready, serve the ratatouille over the rice and enjoy! It’s where French cuisine meets Indian cuisine, right? Bon’ appetite!

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Pro Tip: If you have leftovers and want to re-purpose the meal to try and pull a fast one on your family, simply pulse the ratatouille (without the rice) in a food processor with a small amount of vegetable broth to turn it into soup! Make it as chunky or pureed as you desire, and add the rice after for some additional texture.

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Carnival Squash Stuffed with Quinoa and Sugar-Baked Apples

Ok. I know I have some explaining to do.

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I’m making a somewhat sheepish¬†return to this blog with my tail between my legs; this newest post clouded by the undeniable fact that it has been LITERALLY MONTHS¬†since my last post, which is not only unfair to those who actually read and like my blog (thank you!) but is also really sad because I’m letting the entire fall season virtually pass by without posting any of the great fall vegetable recipes that make this time of year a true delight.

I’m sorry. I have no excuse. You should know that¬†I have still been cooking, so you will finally get to take part in that experience. I hope these next recipes will be at least marginally useful to you, even though fall is half over.

Some exciting news though! It was my birthday the other day, which means I’ve been blogging steadily (don’t say it) for about a year! I find this to be among my top accomplishments as a person, and to celebrate, I bestow upon you this quintessentially fall dish, which I owe to the wonderful people at Barker’s Farm in Stratham, NH for hooking me up with some of the coolest must-have¬†squashes of the season (You know how I feel about squashes – **swoon**)

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What You Need:

  • Two medium or large carnival squashes (or four smaller ones if you’re feeding several people or prefer smaller portions) If you don’t have or can’t find a carnival squash, acorn squash is the most similar, and delicata would also be delicious.
  • 2 medium or large apples, any type (I used Cortland) peeled and cut into apple pie-type chunks
  • 1 tbsp butter, very soft or melted
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 cup diced red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 habanero or hot pepper of choice, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 cup dry quinoa, cooked according to package directions
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese of your choice (I used goat cheese¬†because that is what we had in the fridge)

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What You Do:

Preheat oven to 400F

Cut the squash lengthwise from stem to bottom and scoop out the seeded insides.

Lightly brush the squash’s insides with butter, lay skin-side-down¬†on a foil-covered baking sheet, and place in the oven to bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until it appears to be caramelizing and easily lets a fork through.

While the squash is baking, cook the quinoa.

Squash (12)While the quinoa is cooking, place the garlic, onion and hot pepper in a frying pan over low-medium heat with 1 tbsp oil.

When they become soft and translucent, add the apple pieces and stir until well-mixed.

Add the brown sugar and chili powder, salt and pepper and continue stirring until the apples become warm and juicy (but still maintain their shape and don’t get mushy) and are well-mixed with the sugar and spices.

Once the quinoa is cooked, add it to the apple mixture in spoonfuls to gauge how much you need to make a nice balanced mix of quinoa and apple mixture. I found 2 cups of quinoa was enough to create a decent amount for stuffing the squash.

When the squash has cooked, place them skin-side-down in a baking dish.

Gently scoop the apple and quinoa mixture into each squash.

Sprinkle your cheese of choice over the top of each (optional) and place back in the oven for about 5¬†minutes or until the cheese is melted. (If you choose not to use cheese you can skip this step. It’s plenty hot at this point!)

Pro Tip:¬†Add shredded chicken instead of or in addition to the quinoa to make it a non-vegetarian dish. If you’re a fan of raisins (I’m not), sprinkle some into the apple mixture while it’s cooking to add a new texture and flavor.

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Thai Peanut Tofu Stirfry with Kale

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For the FIFTH (but let’s face it, certainly not final) day of Five Days of Farmer’s Market Meals, I give you a ridiculously easy but totally delish vegetable explosion in a pan.

For the fact that I have this crazy amount of kale in my backyard, I realize I haven’t made nearly enough kale-involved recipes this week. So I’m making up for it right now.

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I have a not-so-secret addiction to Thai food – particularly Tofu Pad Thai. But a long time ago I decided it was silly to keep buying it when the ingredients are really so super simple. However, I’ve never been able to give my tofu that golden crispiness, probably because I cook them in oil and not in a fry-o-lator ūüôā

This dish is a farmer’s market-friendly spin on Pad Thai, with homemade everything. Sometimes I make these meals to ensure I will have a lunch in the fridge at work the next day that I truly look forward to eating. No shame in that!

The Farmer’s Market ingredients used in this recipe are:

  • Kale (from my garden)
  • Garlic scapes
  • Red and green peppers
  • Bean sprouts
  • Scallions

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What You Need for the Stir Fry

  • 1 bunch kale (about 15 leaves) hand shredded
  • 1 package firm tofu, cut into small squares
  • 2 garlic scapes, chopped into small rounds
  • 1¬†scallion, sliced
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 bunch bean sprouts, cut into 1-inch strands

What You Need for the Peanut Sauce

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 3 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tbsp fresh ginger root, grated
  • red pepper flakes, to taste (about 1-2 tsp)

 

What You Do:

To make the peanut sauce, simply combine all ingredients. Easy!

Set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat a tbsp of olive or coconut oil and cook the tofu, covered, stirring often. It will be done when the tofu begins to brown and stick slightly to the pan.

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In a large wok or skillet, heat the olive or coconut oil and add the scallions. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 3 minutes or until soft.

Add garlic scapes, cook for about 2 minutes. Add peppers, stir and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the tofu and kale. Stir and cook for about 5-8 minutes or until the kale is soft.

Pour the peanut sauce over the tofu stir fry, mix well, and serve topped with bean sprouts, or add the bean sprouts into the mix just before serving.

Pro Tip: Substitute the tofu for chicken, beef or shrimp if desired. Also, you can spice up this dish quite a bit by adding some chopped jalapeno or serrano pepper.

Zucchini, Tomato and Corn Gratin

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Ah zucchini.

I like squash a lot. I really do. But I’m at that point in the summer when, to be honest, the level of squash present in my life is getting to be slightly overwhelming. Not only am I harvesting a small bumper crop in my backyard, but I for some reason keep thinking that purchasing additional summer squash at the farmer’s market is a good idea.

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One of my zucchini plants, going strong.

So the chain of events is as follows: Buy fresh squash at the FM –> feel compelled to use said fresh squash before it goes bad ¬†–>¬†neglect picking the actively-growing squash in my garden¬†–>¬†end up with giant backyard squash.

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This isn’t even the biggest one. My latest monster creation is at LEAST 3 Hershey’s bars long, and probably half of one in width.

So Mike has been subjected to an onslaught of zucchini recipes lately, which have included zucchini bread, zucchini pizza boats, and zucchini-topped pizza, and this is basically fine as he doesn’t mind squash. (But he might after this summer!) I’m still fine with it too, but the ongoing challenge is cooking it in different ways so we don’t get sick of it.

You don’t have to love squash to like this dish, though. It is really very good. This recipe post reflects a few changes that I would most certainly employ if I cook this again, which I will, so don’t lose faith in me if you feel the photos don’t quite do it justice.

The farmer’s market/my garden ingredients used in this meal are:

  • Zucchini and Summer Squash
  • Corn on the cob
  • Onion
  • Tomatoes
  • Garlic

What You Need:

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  • About a pound of zucchini and summer squash sliced into thin rounds (I used a mandolin for this)
  • 1 1/2 cups panko or your favorite bread ground up to make breadcrumbs
  • 1 small yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 corn on the cob, with corn sliced off the cob
  • 1 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
  • 2 large tomatoes, sliced thin (I also used a mandolin for this)
  • Salt
  • Olive or coconut oil
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp butter, melted
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

 

What You Do:

The Squash

Preheat oven to 350F

Here’s an important step you should never, ever ignore when cooking squash, but I always do anyways. Salt your squash to help remove moisture. This will help it cook better and faster, and overall just taste better.

So, toss your squash rounds with 1-2 tsp salt and set aside in a colander to let it drain (about 10 minutes).

After, lay the slices out on a VERY LIGHTLY oiled baking sheet, and place in the oven for about 5-7 minutes, or until the slices look slightly translucent and soft.

Leave the oven on since the whole dish needs about 10 minutes in there at the end.

The Filling

Warm a tbsp of olive or coconut oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat. When hot, place onion slices in and cover, letting the onions caramelize. Remove them when they smell sweet and look translucent with just a touch of brown.

Gently toss your corn with a tiny bit of salt, black pepper and olive or coconut oil, and mix with the caramelized onions.

The Topping

Melt the 2 tbsp of butter over low heat.

In a small bowl, mix your grated cheese and panko, adding a sprinkle of salt and black pepper.

Pour the melted butter into the panko mixture, add the minced garlic and stir it up.

The Finale

Line a baking dish with the cooked squash and raw tomato slices, alternating as you go. After you have one layer down, sprinkle some of your onion and corn mixture over it.

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Add more squash and tomato slices, covering them with onions and corn each time you have a new layer, until both toppings are gone.

Top the entire dish with the panko mix.

Place in the oven for 10 minutes or until the topping starts to brown and the tomato juices are bubbling. Then – enjoy!

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Pro-Tip: I would recommend making this a wild rice gratin to replace the panko and make it a gluten-free meal. Cook up some wild rice, mix it with an egg and the onions and corn and cheese. Put it on the bottom of the pan and line the tomato and squash on top. Sprinkle with some additional cheese. There ya go!

Sesame-Ginger Vegetable Quinoa Salad with Cranberries and Walnuts, Lemon-crusted Haddock and a Side Salad

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For my third day of Five Days of Farmer’s Market Meals, I made a smorgasbord (kinda) in order to get a better handle on my overflowing crisper drawer.

But I succeeded in using a¬†lot¬†of vegetables, and everything went together pretty nicely in the end! This recipe makes for a delightful little summery meal, and it’s got a couple completely different ingredients in it that really give it a unique flavor.

You likely won’t be able to find the same exact stuff at your market, but I address that in the ingredients list.

The farmer’s market ingredients used in this meal are:

  • Agretti
  • Culinary celery
  • Carrots
  • Spinach
  • Cucumber
  • Scallions
  • Wild-caught local haddock from the fish guy

I’d like you to meet two of my new favorite veggies: Agretti and Culinary Celery

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What is Agretti? Agretti is a Mediterranean water-retaining plant that looks like it should taste like grass but is actually DELICIOUS and can be used in basically anything, including raw in salads, omelets, or sprinkled over pasta (which is how I would have used it had I not just made pasta. Poor planning!)

Culinary Celery will blow your mind if you don’t like celery, but will especially blow your mind if you don’t like parsley. This awesome vegetable creation is a divine marriage of the two¬†that tastes just perfect and¬†doesn’t have that often overwhelming flavor you get with celery and/or parsley.

Agretti can be tough to find unless you know a farmer or market that grows Mediterranean-type veggies, but if you want to try and use something similar, people claim dandelion greens come close-ish.

As for culinary celery, I’ve never seen this before but you might ask around for it. Otherwise, adding a tiny bit of both celery and parsley together would be fine just to get that flavor.

ALSO – NEVER FEAR! This dish is perfect without either¬†of these things! It’s the sesame-ginger sauce that really brings it all together ūüôā

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What You Need for the Quinoa Salad

  • 1 cup quinoa cooked according to package directions
  • 1 cup shredded carrot
  • 1 cup finely chopped culinary celery
  • 1-2 cups roughly chopped agretti
  • 1 cup dried cranberries (I used Craisins)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup finely chopped¬†cucumber

What You Need for the Sesame-Ginger Dressing

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (or substitute with honey)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh¬†ginger, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • pinch red pepper or chili flakes to taste

 

What You Need for the Lemon-Crusted Haddock

  • 2 meyer lemons, cut into slices
  • 1/4 cup shredded parm
  • 1/4 cup panko (or your favorite bread ground up in a food processor)
  • Haddock

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What You Do

Add the shredded veggies and chopped walnuts and whole cranberries to the quinoa in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Add sesame dressing, mix well, and set aside in the refrigerator to chill for about an hour, if you can wait. This dish is good both hot and cold.

While the quinoa salad is chilling, sprinkle the haddock with fresh lemon.

Mix together the shredded parm and panko, and gently dip the lemon-doused haddock in to lightly cover the fish, or sprinkle the mixture over the fish if picking it up isn’t really an option.

Bake, grill or pan-fry the haddock until cooked. Serve alongside the quinoa salad with a mixed-green salad on the side if desired! I made a quick salad with leftover agretti, spinach leaves and chopped scallions.

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Breakfast of Champions: Rice Cakes, Mashed Avocado and Cayenne

I never eat breakfast at home anymore, except on Tuesdays and Thursday when I get up at 4:50am for a boot camp class. Those days are egg sandwich days and I love them.

The rest of the time, I get up too late and spend what could be quality breakfast time doing other things like picking out an outfit or trying to find my keys. (My pre-bedtime prep for the coming morning is not a rock-solid operation).

So I keep a pretty hefty supply of food stuffs at my desk to mitigate the temptation to get a bagel and cream cheese from the bakery RIGHT DOWNSTAIRS. On non-egg days when I am underprepared, my stash of rice cakes (organic and non-GMO), almond butter, bananas and avocados are the perfect saving grace to get me through until lunch.

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There isn’t really a recipe required here. I take 2 rice cakes, cut open a ripe avocado (it needs to be soft enough that it can easily be mashed and spread) and scoop out 1/2 of the avocado, bagging the other half as air-tight as possible for the next day.

I cut the remaining portion in half again, and put one avocado part (piece?) on each rice cake. Then I just sort of spread it around, trying not to demolish the rice cake in the process.

Then – the magic ingredient! Sprinkle cayenne pepper on top (lightly if you’re not into the spicy thing).

Happy Breakfasting!

Pro Tip:¬†Every other day (or when I run out of my avocado supply) I use¬†almond butter and sliced banana with a touch of honey on the rice cakes instead. It’s all very yummy and easy to do!

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Vegetarian Quesadillas with Beans and Corn

This is truly a quick dinner dish. Perfect for those nights when you’ve worked late and have no desire to cook anything, but have no leftovers in the fridge and no appetite for Annie’s Mac (which is generally my go-to for nights like this).

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I went straight for the cupboard for this dinner, pulling out a can of corn and a can of pinto beans. Luckily, this is one of those dinners that you can make with pretty much anything you find around your kitchen.

I made one for me and one for Mike because I wanted mine to be super spicy. It took about 40 minutes total and really hit the spot!

Preheat the oven to 350F

006What You Need:

  • Wraps (I used 4 Joseph’s Omega 3 wraps)
  • Freshly grated cheese of your choice (I used cheddar)
  • 1 can of corn
  • 1 can of beans of your choice
  • Chopped jalapeno or serrano pepper (optional)
  • 1 avocado
  • Jar of salsa (I used a spicy corn salsa)
  • Sour Cream (optional)

What You Do:

Drain the corn and beans in a strainer and combine. Add a teaspoon of salt and pepper if desired.

Sprinkle shredded cheese on one half of the wrap OR on one whole side of one wrap. Then sprinkle the corn and bean mixture on top. Add chopped hot pepper if desired.

Sprinkle more shredded cheese on top and fold the wrap over to cover it OR place another wrap over it.

Place in the oven and bake until cheese is melted and the wrap is toasty.

To dress, add salsa and avocado or – to be “fancy”, mash the avocado and blend with some salsa for a quick and easy not-quite-guacamole.

Add a side salad if desired and you’re good to go!003

 

Pro-Tip: Add chicken if you want! Also, you will probably have leftover corn and beans, so use the mixture to top a salad!