Watch film? Savor jazz? Take in ball? Follow politics? Ofttimes too much psychic energy is spent on the star, with short shrift given to the supporting cast. So when food scheming, give pause to your sides as they tend to elevate, even eclipse, the leading roles. On that note, throw down some grilled or roasted riffs next to the mains in your medley. Then have a close your eyes moment.

Onions can make even heirs and widows weep.
~Benjamin Franklin

GRILLED ZUCCHINI, YELLOW SQUASH, EGGPLANT & ONIONS

1/2 lb zucchini, sliced 1/2″ on the bias
1/2 lb yellow squash, sliced 1/2″ on the bias
1/2 lb japanese eggplant, sliced 1/2″ on the bias
1/2 lb yellow onions, peeled and sliced 1/2″

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil, to coat well

Red pepper flakes, to taste

Fresh basil, parsley or mint cut in chiffonade (ribbons)
1/2 lemon (optional)
3-4 T pitted Nicoise olives, chopped (optional)
Goat cheese, crumbled or parmigiano reggiano, grated (optional)

Season the zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and onions with salt and pepper, and then toss or brush thoroughly with olive oil before preparing grill.

Prepare a medium hot grill. Grill the vegetables on each side until the slices are tender, but take care not to overcook. Remove from grill, carefully arrange on a platter, and sprinkle with a pinch of red pepper flakes. Arrange grilled vegetables on a platter or plates. Just before serving, slightly drizzle with lemon juice, strew with chopped olives, add a few goat cheese crumbles or a grating of parm, and scatter your herb of choice over the grilled fare.

Pourboire: once the tomato season arrives (not soon enough), feel free to add heirlooms to the mix — a grilled version that just somewhat resembles classic ratatouille.

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A simple summer aside which dwells well with grilled meats. A delectable subordinate, sort of.

ROASTED ZUCCHINI WITH HERBES DE PROVENCE

4 zucchinis, sliced lengthwise in half
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1-2 T herbes de provence

Parmigiano reggiano, grated

Preheat oven to 450 F

Brush olive oil over both sides of the zucchini slices. Season with salt, pepper and
herbes de provence on both sides. Align the zucchini pieces in a baking dish, flesh side up.

Roast 8 to 10 minutes, until tender and lightly golden brown. During the last minute or so, top with grated parmigiano reggiano.

Zucchini Gratin

May 26, 2009

Zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the female flower of a summer squash. Natives of Central and South America have been enjoying zucchini for several thousand years, but our present day zucchini is likely a variety of the squash developed in Italy—a result of New World explorers returning to Europe bearing seeds. The word “zucchini” derives from the Italian zucchino, meaning small squash.

Fresh zucchini season at the local farmer’s markets here is not a far cry away.

ZUCCHINI GRATIN

4 T unsalted butter
1 t dried thyme
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and sliced thin
2 lbs zucchini (4-5), sliced medium thin
1 C cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 plump, fresh garlic clove, peeled

Grated fresh nutmeg
1/2 C fresh bread crumbs
1 C Gruyère, grated

Preheat the oven to 400 F

Melt the butter in a very large, heavy sauté pan and cook the onions over medium low heat, sprinkled with thyme, until tender but not browned, about 15-20 minutes. After draining some spread the onions out evenly in a baking or gratin dish which has already been rubbed with the fresh garlic. Arrange the zucchini, overlapping some, on top of the onions. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cover with cream.

Sprinkle the zucchini mixture first with the grated nutmeg, then bread crumbs and finally the Gruyère. Place in the oven and bake until the zucchini is tender, but not too soft, and browned, about 20-25 minutes.

Ratatouille

February 24, 2009

Ratatouille is an evocatively hued Provençal sauté of an olio of vegetables — traditionally garlic, eggplant, tomatoes, onions, peppers, squashes, and herbs — which likely originated in Nice during the 18th century.  The word for this stew derived from the  from the Occitan ratatolha and the tail touiller means “to stir up or toss food” in French.  Approaches to ratatouille often differ from kitchen to kitchen.  Some chefs simply sauté the vegs together, others carefully layer them in a casserole and bake in the oven, while a third group sautés the vegs separately so they remain recognizable then recombines them and finishes the dish with a slowly simmer in a pot. 

My particular preference is to serve it cold after an overnight layover in the refrigerator which allows the various flavors and scents to mingle. Although often served as a main course, ratatouille goes swimmingly well with grilled meats and a crusty baguette.

RATATOUILLE

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
4 Japanese eggplants, unpeeled, sliced 1/4″ thick
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil
1/4 C water

1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 zucchini, sliced crosswise 1/4″ thick
2 yellow squash, sliced crosswise 1/4″ thick
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/4″ strips
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4″ strips
2 T red wine vinegar
4 medium ripe red & yellow tomatoes, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped

2 T capers, rinsed and drained
2 T pitted Nicoise olives, chopped
2 T fresh parsley, chopped
3 fresh thyme sprigs
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
1/4 C fresh basil, chopped

Salt and pepper the eggplant lightly and toss in a bowl with 3 T olive oil. Transfer to a baking dish and add water. Cover and bake for 40 minutes, until soft

Meanwhile, heat 3 T olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until tender and slightly brown, about 10 minutes. Add the peppers, season with salt and pepper and cook over high heat, stirring, until they are both nicely browned. Add the wine vinegar and cook one minute. Place this mixture in a bowl.

Add the remaining 2 T olive oil to the pan and sauté the squashes, turning until they turn brown, then place in the bowl with the onions and peppers. Add the already baked eggplants to the bowl. Pour off any excess liquid remaining in the baking dish. Mix in tomatoes with the other vegetables and place all in the pot. Add the bay leaf and garlic and bring to a simmer and cook over medium heat for 2 minutes. The ratatouille should not be soupy, so pour off excess liquid into a sauce pan and reduce until it thickens; then pour the reduced juice over the vegetables. Reduce heat to medium low. Cover and cook until vegetables are tender and flavors have blended, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Add capers, chopped olives, parsley, and basil. Remove from heat and let cool. Discard bay leaf and season to your taste with salt and pepper.

Serve cold, warm or hot.