I decided to make a sort of distillation of ratatouille. An intense concentration of the flavors and textures, which uses wintery ingredients to produce a memory of summer. Obviously, I don’t have fresh tomatoes and peppers from the garden. I have a can of tomatoes and a jar of roasted reds- So I sofritoed it. In this way, you can still get a fix of warmth and sunshine to get you through the chilly months. I combined all the signature ratatouille ingredients – zucchini, tomato, red pepper and herbs – and I cooked them and cooked them until they were meltingly delicious and very very flavorful – almost like a chutney. I have to admit that I don’t really like mushy eggplant. I only like eggplant if it’s sliced thin and crisped up. Even in the summertime, when I make ratatouille – even if I get the eggplant right out of my garden – I don’t cook it with everything else. I slice it thin, bread it, and bake it in olive oil till it’s nice and crispy. And then it goes perfectly with the ratatouille!
So that’s the story about that. We ate it with slices of bread I’d baked with my OOTO spice mix (more about that later!) and some grated mozzarella. Malcolm made little sandwiches with eggplant on the outside and ratatouille and cheese on the inside. And we had a salad, of course! Baby spinach, baby arugula and some grape tomatoes.
This is the time of year for savory pastries! (somebody told me I say the word “savory” too often. And perhaps I do, but somebody’s got to!) They’re so warm and comforting, and they’re the perfect solution to the problem of trying to feed vegetarians a holiday meal. Or to feed non-vegetarians a meal special and satisfying enough that they don’t miss their meat.
Let’s start with the grandmother of all savory pies…the Empanada Gallega. This empanada is probably the source of empanadas all over the world. It hails from Galicia, in Northwestern Spain, and it’s a large flat pie that would be cut into pieces. I’ve never been to Galicia, and I’ve never eaten a genuine empanada gallega, but I’ve been so taken with the idea of it, and I’ve read so much about it, that I feel like I have! I’ve cobbled together a vegetarian version of my idea of an empanada gallega. It’s delicious, relatively simple to make, and it feeds a lot of people. I believe that seafood, specifically tuna, is used in the real version. I’ve experimented with different types of vegetables…mushrooms, eggplant, spinach, zucchini. The combination I like best, in the end, is artichoke hearts and zucchini. Baby spinach would work well in that combination, too, if you’re in the mood. If you’re not a fan of zucchini, you could stick with artichoke hearts by themselves. Whatever you like! We’re making it up as we go along, so it’s very adaptable. You know what would be good? Artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers. I’ll try that next time!!
In Galicia, the patterns on the pies help to identify what kind of filling is inside. Since I just make one at a time, we just have fun with them. My son made the owl!
Potatoes, so mild-mannered and comforting, meet some spicy, vibrant friends in this very pleasing, intensely flavored dish. The potatoes are sliced thinly, and layered with sofrito, olives, capers and fennel, and they all combine to create wonderful tastes and textures.
Sofrito…it’s fun to say and delicious to eat. It’s also one of those foods that turns up all over the world in different guises. In Spain it’s a slow-cooked, intensely flavored tomato paste. Where different versions of sofrito show up – in the Carribean, latin America, the mediterranean – you’ll find different ingredients added or taken away. You’ll find green peppers, pork, cilantro, olives, capers, chilies, different seasonings. A sofrito is usually a base for another dish. You can add it to a soup or stew at the end to deepen the flavor, toss it with pasta, use it as a condiment. And it is the main ingredient of the empanada gallega, which is the mother of all empanadas.I picked these paste tomatoes from our local CSA, but you can just as easily (well, more easily, really!) make them from a can of tomatoes. But use a can of good tomatoes – fire roasted is nice!
This is my version of a Spanish sofrito. I keep the seasonings simple (rosemary and beautiful smoked spanish paprika) because the sofrito will probably find itself in another dish, mingling with other flavors. I’m not sure this is authentic, but it is delicious!
Recipe after the jump.