Today’s Recipe: Ratatouille

This morning we woke to 40 degree weather with a wind of around 18 mph.  A good day for a warm and hearty stew recipe. I had all the ingredients for a wonderful Ratatouille so that is what I have made.

If you like zucchini and eggplant you will love this recipe. The cutting up of the veggies takes the most time, the cooking time is super fast and you end up with a very hearty meal.

Ratatouille

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Adobo seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 6 large cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 large red pepper, sliced
  • 1/2 large green pepper, sliced
  • 1 large eggplant, cut into sticks
  • 2 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 2 zucchini, cut into long sticks
  • 2 stalks of celery chopped including leaves
  • 1/2 lb ground beef (use better quality)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Parmesan cheese for garnish
  • Parsley chopped for garnish

Use part of the olive oil to sauté the beef with the dry herbs. Set meat aside on a plate when almost cooked.  In the same pot add the balance of the olive oil and sauté the onions, celery and peppers for 2 minutes, add the balance of the veggies and cook just a few minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point you may need to add 1/4 cup of water but the veggies will release more of their own juices making more sauce. Add the ground beef and stir, cover and cook for 10 minutes.  Check the tenderness of the veggies, they should hold their shape but be tender.  This is the time to make adjustments to the seasoning, adding salt or pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley and a grating of Parmesan cheese.  Serve hot or at room temperature.

This tastes even better the next day.  You can serve over a baked potato or rice to make a more filling meal.

This recipe is from Sandy Hill who we met in South Miami years ago.  We have lost contact over the years but this recipe has lasted the test of time.  Of course I have made several additions to make it my own but the basic recipe is the same as when Sandy had Joe and I over for dinner back in the late 70’s.

Plum and Fig Tart or is that Fig and Plum Tart?

montevideo-2-12-21

I found beautiful fresh figs and large purple Italian plums this past week. Figs are a favorite since living in Playas, Ecuador.  Our guardian would pick figs and bring a bag to our home when they were perfectly ripe, soft and sweet. I would cut them in half, wrap half a slice of bacon around it and bake it in the oven just until the bacon was crispy.  That was a real treat. I can tolerate a Fig Newton, if there is nothing else in the house but unless you have had fresh ripe figs you have not lived.

I loved them so much and our friend Yusuf said I needed to plant a tree in the yard in San Clemente, Ecuador. Where was I going to fit another tree in the San Clemente yard?  Well I found a tree and found a place for it and enjoyed a small harvest a few times from that tree.  That is only one of the things I miss about San Clemente, but don’t get me started on that.

I made a shortbread crust, with flour, butter, sugar, dash of salt and vanilla and an egg.  No rolling necessary as it was going to be a tart, free form and rustic.  I cut up 6-7 figs and plums and arranged them on the pastry which I had placed on a baking sheet covered with a silicone baking liner, this will stick as the sweet juices ooze from the tart. Turned the edges up and baked it for about 15 minutes.  The crust was wonderful and the fruit just so sweet and soft.

We will do that again…

Cranberry Walnut Scones: What a Wonderful Breakfast Treat

Last night before bed I was thinking what wonderfulness can I make tomorrow morning.

I have decided that we can eat “good for you” food every weekday but the weekends are special and we should have something even better.  So Sundays I make something wonderful like Lobster Rolls or a Pork Tenderloin Roast with Homemade Sauerkraut and Root Veggies or a Moroccan Roast Chicken with Guava Paste.  But Saturday morning should be special also.  So I remembered making scones once before.  The recipe was from a Rachael Ray cookbook and honestly it did not do it for me.  So I got on the computer and found a recipe from All Recipes.

http://allrecipes.com/recipe/79470/simple-scones/

img_3434I of course made some changes and this is what I came up with:

Cranberry Walnut Scones

Heat the oven to 400 F.  In a medium-sized bowl mix the top 5 ingredients.  Grate the butter into the flour mixture and with a pastry blender or two knives cut the butter into the flour mixture. Do not use your hands as it will melt the butter. Add the walnuts and mix well, place in the fridge until ready to add the wet ingredients. In a separate bowl add the sour cream or the cream and vinegar mixture and set aside.  Add egg to cream and mix well.

Add your egg/cream mixture to your dry ingredients. With just a few strokes incorporate it – it will have dry ingredients that have not mixed well.  No problem just turn out onto a work area (I use a large plastic place mat).  With your hands knead gently until you have a soft dough.  Do not overwork, you do not want to melt the butter pieces. Just a few strokes with your hands should incorporate it into a nice dough.  Shape into a disk about 1/2 inch thick and approximately 7 inch diameter. Sprinkle top evenly with cranberries and pat into the dough. Sprinkle with the white sugar. Cut like a pie into 8 pieces.

Place on a baking sheet with parchment or another non-stick mat. Bake for 15 to 17 minutes.  Watch that the bottom does not burn.

Serve hot with honey butter mixture or my favorite cream and honey.

Cream or Butter Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoon butter or heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon light honey

Mix together and serve on the side with the hot scones.

Great with a good cup of coffee sitting on your porch watching the street come to life.

Homemade Toothpaste

I am a crazy tooth brusher. I brush with such force that my dentists have suggested first soft bristled brushes which I can destroy within a week and currently an electric toothbrush which is difficult to find here. I found an Oral B electric and have been using it for the past two years. It has to my astonishment cleaned my teeth to my satisfaction as well as allowing my gums to get back to where they belong. But over the years my teeth had become dingy. Sorry I love coffee and am not going to give it up, and with no teeth whitening strips available in this area, I turned to Colgate Triple Action. The tube shows blanco (white) as their second feature. I did not see a difference in the color of my teeth, plus it seemed to be really harsh on my gums.

Then I started to read things about fluoride and triclosan that is an additive in toothpaste and that made me cringe. At my age do I really need fluoride?  And what is triclosan? The bottom line is do I really need this in my toothpaste?  I don’t think so.

I have seen several articles on using organic turmeric and coconut oil as a tooth paste. I gave it a try and was very surprised at the color change in my teeth.  It does not irritate my gums – actually turmeric is anti-inflammatory, contains antioxidants, and is antimicrobial.  Whereas coconut oil is antibacterial, this combination is the dynamic duo as far as I am concerned.

Toothpaste

  • 1/4 cup of baking soda
  • 1/4 cup of organic turmeric (Use Organic only or it yellows the teeth)
  • 1/4 cup of organic coconut oil
  • 10 drops of mint essential oil

Mix all ingredients together to form a thick paste and place in an airtight container. Brush as normal for about 2 minutes a few times a day.

img_3234If you try this let me know about your results, I really think my teeth are much whiter.

 

 

Orange Sweet Potatoes or Yams

img_3249One day last week Gonzalo came by with a few orange sweet potatoes. I went pretty crazy as we seldom see orange sweets here. So I begged for him to find me more and yesterday he gave me a bag full of these orange beauties.  I love the purple ones, don’t get me wrong, they are delicious and super sweet.  But when making a sweet potato souffle where I add eggs and brown sugar the resulting color is really off-putting. The combination of the yellow egg yolks, brown sugar and purple potatoes turns almost black.  Again not very appetizing.

I can remember our first Thanksgiving here, we were living in Salinas and were invited to Will’s Coco Bar for a traditional US style Thanksgiving.  I decided to make my sweet potato souffle which is usually well received and finished off. It did not go over well.  Honestly it tasted very similar to the ones I had made in the states but the color, it was scary. I ended up bringing home half a dish full and chucking it in the trash.

Today I have enough to make sweet potato fries. We will see how Joe likes them.

img_3251 Joe loved them and they vanished.

I guess making friends with your vegetable vendor, the meat guy and the rest of the folks who come by on the street does make a big difference. Thanks Gonzalo, you are the best for finding these for me.

 

Baba Ganoush

I know the name sounds a bit strange but it is a wonderful tasting and very filling dip. Especially good with cut up raw vegetables or my favorite fresh pita bread*. So guess what I am making today?  Baba Ganoush. This is going to be lunch.  Joe and I have always talked about just having dessert first and forget about the lunch or dinner.  Well I say let’s have an appetizer for lunch and forget about the lunch!

So let’s talk eggplant, what a wonderful vegetable.  I make a delicious eggplant lasagna as well as a ratatouille recipe that I will post in the future. Both are excellent ways to use this very versatile veg.

Baba Ganoush

  • 1 large or 3 smaller fresh shiny eggplants
  • 1/2 head of garlic just cut the tops off to allow the oil to penetrate the cloves
  • 1 clove raw garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
  • 1/2 cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala – it is a traditional Indian spice blend that usually includes cumin seeds, cinnamon, coriander seeds, black pepper, clove, nutmeg and chili.
  • Olive oil for baking the veggies and a few tablespoons for the top of the dip
  • sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

img_3224First take your eggplants, wash them and cut them in half. In a small tin foil wrapper add half head of garlic and just trim the tops of the garlic to show the clove below. Place all on a cookie sheet that has been lined in tin foil, less to clean up. Sprinkle all with olive oil, add the oregano and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes until soft.  Squeeze any excess olive oil from the garlic tin foil into your mixture, what a wonderful flavorful oil it has made.

In a large bowl spoon all the eggplant flesh and squeeze the bottom of the garlic head –  the cloves will just pop out and add them to the bowl.  Mash all together and add your tahini, lemon juice, garam masala, salt and pepper. Finely grate the one raw clove of garlic on top of the mixture. Mix well. It should be dip consistency, pretty thick with no big chunks of eggplant if it seems too thick add a little water until you get the right consistency.  Taste for seasoning add more salt if necessary. Refrigerate. Right before serving add your cilantro and mix well.  Serve with sliced vegetables, crackers or pita bread.

img_3245*Pita bread recipe can be found by searching for Pita Bread and Hummus above from my August 2016 post.

Joe just Loves this Chocolate

Do you like unsweetened dark chocolate? Joe does. When we were staying in Manta Joe found this unsweetened chocolate in Super Maxi. I think in the states it’s just called cacao – no sugar OR milk solids/fats added.

img_3206 He would buy several bags and each evening he would sit and have just one of the disks.  It is not for me, unsweetened chocolate – can you say WHAT? That is for making brownies or hot chocolate but eating it straight from the bag?  Not for me!!  But Joe may have something here. All the news you hear about superfoods, chocolate is supposed to lower blood pressure, lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease. Another reason that dark chocolate is especially heart-healthy it has inflammation fighting properties, which reduce cardiovascular risk.  We do not know if that is true or not but Joe loves it and it really helps him from having other snacks after dinner.

img_3208While in Manta last week at the SuperMaxi I found a shelf full, I think I picked up 10 packages.  Joe will just love it and of course he will think I am the greatest for picking it up for him.