It was a special market day because it is wild blueberry season!
Last night we cooked up a yummy, summer market supper...
One of my favourite summer foods is ratatouille...
I am not an expert in french cuisine and I am not always a food purist - I am happy to make changes to suit my tastes, budget or items on hand. So, my version of ratatouille may not even really be ratatouille but that is what I call it.
My version is roasted - roasting the vegetables caramelizes them so deliciously that I can't make it any other way.
Roasted ratatouille has to be one of the easiest and yummiest summer foods to make.
I simply cut up the freshest, ripest vegetables I can get my hands on - this really is one of those recipes where in season, vine-ripened produce makes a HUGE difference!
I make medium/large chunks of tomatoes, zucchini (or other summer squash), eggplant, and red (or whatever colour you have - but I find red to be the sweetest) peppers. Toss them in a glass, oven proof pan (a cast iron skillet works really well too). Liberally coat them with good olive oil, a big handful of chopped fresh basil and a peeled head of garlic - although I often toss in two heads of garlic - roasted garlic is just so good.
I put them in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 40 minutes. Give them a stir once in awhile watching that they don't burn. They really need to be watched during the final ten minutes or so.
You want them to be looking dark around the edges. They will almost look overcooked. The corners of the pan may start to look a little burnt...but that is okay.
They cook down quite a bit so put in twice as many vegetables as you think you need. They will be soft with little bits of crispy caramelized goodness and packed with flavour. This is my husband's most requested summer-time dish...even above steak and scallops...crazy good.
On a side note - my kids don't love it. My six year old complained a lot before I made him try it. A bowl full of mushy veggies did not appeal to him for some reason! But, I have a house rule that they have to try everything at least once a year. If they try it and hate it this year they don't have to try it again until next year. This year the six year old and the eight year old both said it tasted better than they remembered and added a spoonful to their plates after trying it. I may have to make extra next year...
I served it with some pasta and grated parmesan cheese.
At the market I picked up ten pounds of wild blueberries and my ten year old asked if I could PLEASE make a blueberry pie with the lines on top...
I whipped up some pastry in the food processor (I use Martha Stewart's pate brisee recipe) - easiest method EVER!
I never used to make a lot of pies - I think because my mom told me they were hard to make - but this pastry recipe is so easy and I have never had problems with it.
Now I find pie one of the easiest desserts to whip up. The pastry takes literally only a few minutes to mix up and then I pop it in the fridge to rest for an hour.
When I am ready to bake I pull out the dough and let it rest on the counter for a few minutes.
I grab a bowl - toss in a few cups of blueberries (I used about four cups for my pan), some flour - I used 1/4 cup, and some sugar - again I used a 1/4 cup - but in this case I used vanilla sugar just because I had it and I thought it would be good. I grate (with a microplane grater) a little bit of fresh nutmeg over the top and give it a stir.
After rolling out the dough I just place it in my tart pan with the removable bottom. This is the best pan to use when you are busy - no messing with fluting edges or anything. I fold down the edges making them a little thicker than the bottom - I like to make sure the edges are not too thin so that I can pop the pie out of the pan without it collapsing...not that this has ever happened to me before.
The lattice top is just rolled out pastry, cut with a special tool...that I do not have.* (see note below)
Then the dough is woven on top of the pie, brushed with a beaten egg and sprinkled with sugar. I put it in a preheated 425 degree oven for ten minutes and then reduce the heat to 350 for 30 - 40 minutes until the pastry looks golden brown and the berries are bubbling away under the lattice. After placing it on a cooling rack for about five minutes I unmold the sides of the tart pan while it is still warm just in case some juices have escaped down the sides of the pan. I wouldn't want the blueberries to cause the pan to stick to the pie...again, not that this has ever happened to me before.
Place the pie on a cake stand and...
Voila! yummy beautiful pie.
The boys are always so impressed and it really doesn't take much effort. For all of you afraid of making pie...try it! It just takes a little practice.
One thing I have learned: Perseverance is probably the most important quality we can cultivate. Nothing is done with excellence without it.
I wasn't a very good cook when I was first married. But, it was really important to me that my family eat well. So, I practiced. My cooking is still not great but it is so much better than it was. I am always learning new things and improving. I just keep practicing. I have not reached Martha's level yet...but, I think I have reached her level when she was starting out - watch some of her early work and compare it to what she is doing now there is a vast improvement and proof that perseverance really is so important.
*Full disclosure - I have never found a pastry cutter that gives a well defined edge to my lattice. I did have a semi-expensive, lovely, stainless steel cutter that gave a barely defined edge - it was really little better than using a knife - I gave up on it a few years ago. Lately I have been using a rolling cutter that came with a play-dough set. That's right play-dough. When I saw it I knew it would do the job perfectly - whatever works!