I’ve been interested in joining a community supported agriculture (CSA) program for a few years now. After all, there isn’t much out there I am more passionate about than good, fresh food. We have many CSA communities here in San Diego, and finding the right one was tons of fun. I got to visit amazing farms, eat fresh local produce and meet people truly passionate about the food they grow… what a treat!
During my search, I met Farmer Steve (my new best friend) who inspired me to rally all my friends to join me in this local food movement. I’ve since turned my living room into a pick up spot for weekly produce boxes and recipe sharing is now our favorite topic of conversation. Once a month we arrange cooking classes at one of our homes. You’d be amazed how even the weirdest looking vegetable can be transformed into a delicious dish! Local CSA farms have a variety of great weekly and monthly fresh produce delivery programs. I urge everyone to grab a friend or neighbor and give it a try. By supporting your local farmer, you”ll be eating healthier and helping a small business succeed… a win-win in my book. Don’t have any CSA farms in your area? Check out a local farmer’s market for the same type of products and benefits!
This week’s box was filled with eggplant and bell peppers, a perfect combination that just screamed to be made into the delicious French vegetable dish called ratatouille. Ratatouille’s flavor is built by cooking each kind of produce individually, combining them into one dish and baking them like a casserole. My mother used to make the version I am sharing with you. Traditionally, the dish is baked, but my version turns the veggies into a fresh tasting stew. The recipe might seem tedious but the key to its flavor is proper prep (sweating the eggplant and peeling the tomatoes) and cooking each vegetable separately. Trust me, this one is worth it! Save on time by cooking a big batch to freeze for later. It’s a perfect dish for all those cold winter nights coming our way.
FRESH VEGETABLE RATATOUILLE
2 bell peppers, any color, cut into large chunks
2 medium eggplants, cut into large cubes
4 zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced into large half moons
1 large onion quartered and cut into large chunks
8 large tomatoes
6 garlic cloves peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup Italian parsley chopped
salt and pepper
To sweat the eggplant place cubes into a colander and sprinkle with salt. Let sit for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, press the Sauté-Then-Simmer™ function on your Aroma Rice Cooker. Add 2 tblsp olive oil and the bell peppers to the pot and let cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and tender, about 10 minutes. Remove peppers and set aside in a large bowl.
Add another 2 tblsp olive oil to your pot along with the diced onions. Let cook until soft, approximately 10 minutes. Remove onions and place in the bowl with peppers.
Repeat with zucchini and eggplant, cooking each veggie until soft and tender.
When all vegetables have been cooked, fill your rice cooker with water up to level 8 and press the steam function. Cut an X on the top of each tomato and place in rice cooker using tongs or a spoon when the water boils. Immerse tomatoes for 30 seconds and remove. When tomatoes are cool enough for you to be able to handle, remove the peel and chop.
Empty the water from your rice cooker and press the Sauté-Then-Simmer™ function. Add 2 tblsp olive oil, the tomatoes, parsley and salt and pepper and cook until tomatoes start to break down, 30 minutes or so.
Add all the cooked vegetables to the tomatoes and let simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hrs.
Serve with a slice of rustic bread or as a side to any meat, fish or chicken dish. Enjoy!
TIP: This dish can be made 2 days ahead and refrigerated. When you’re ready, just reheat in your Aroma Rice Cooker to serve!