Ratatouille From our French Friends

July 27th, 2011

While on our motorcycle trip to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest we met Carole and Laurent on the ferry trip down the Inner Passage toward Vancouver Island.  We thought we were brave souls for making the trip to Alaska, but Carole and Laurent have us beat by miles.  They have taken a year off from their jobs, shipped their bike to Montreal, ridden across Canada, toured Alaska and now have ridden from West to East across the United States.  We invited them to stay with us on their trip South.  They are on their way to Florida to stay for a few weeks and then will head west again through Texas, into Mexico and Central America.  They will then load their bike on a boat to South America and spend the remainder of their trip exploring that continent.  Not only do they have all of their clothing for all kinds of weather, camping gear and supplies with them, but they travel with panache.  Carole always wears her pearls and her hair is cut in a short style that defies the evil effects of helmet head.  They have a blog which chronicles the trip and Carole has a separate section “just for girls” that tells you how to travel with very little and still look good.

Carole’s silver fox helmet attachement is tres chic.  As is her recipe for ratatouille.

Ratatouille has it’s origins in Provence and uses a melange of summer vegetables.  Eggplant (Aubergine), zuchinni (corgettes), peppers, onions and tomatoes.  Carole and Laurent live in Tours which is in the heart of the Loire River Valley.  They have invited us to stay with them when we visit France next summer.  Carole’s version of ratatouille differs from the recipes I have seen before only in the seasonings.  Most ratatouilles are seasoned with thyme and bay leaves.  Carole uses cumin and cilantro.  That is “so individually Carole” and so good.  Here is her recipe.


1 eggplant cut into small cubes
1 onion, chopped
3 zuchinnis cut into small cubes
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 bunch of cilantro, chopped
1 tsp cumin powder (or to taste)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
Olive oil for sauteing

In a large skillet coated with olive oil saute the eggplant and onions until they are soft.  Remove from pan to a bowl.  Add more oil to pan and in it saute the zuchinni and and red pepper until they are soft.  Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 1 more minute.  Add the cumin and the cilantro.  Stir.  Return the eggplant mixture to the pan along with the can of diced tomatoes.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer and cover.  Cook over low heat for about 45 minutes.  Serve as is or over rice.

Dinner was delicieux, tres magnifiques.

We said our au revoirs this morning.  We hated to see them leave.

Rendez-vous l’annee prochaine.  See you next year.  Bon Voyage Carole and Laurent!  You can follow their blog and adventures here.

Printable recipe

Quinoa Cakes with Eggplant-Tomato Ragu

June 22nd, 2010

Quinoa, once considered “the gold of the Incas”, is a rich source of many healthful benefits. Although it is used like a grain, it is actually a seed that is a relative to spinach and swiss chard. It has all 8 of the amino acids needed to form a complete protein, so is particularily good for vegetarians who seek protein from sources other than meat. But the health benefits go beyond the protein. It is very high in fiber which contributes to cardiovascular health and manganese and copper which are antioxidants and aid in cell repair. The Inca warriors relied on quinoa to give them stamina during battle and, frankly, I can use all the stamina I can get these days. Quinoa is just one of those wonderful foods that will make you feel better.

We spent the weekend with our Son, Daughter-In-Law and Granddaughter. It was also our anniversary and Kristen and Michael treated us to an unbelievable evening of food and wine – more about that later. I am waiting for the recipes from the chef. On the evening that Kristen cooked she served these quinoa cakes with eggplant and tomato ragu with smoky mozzarella. They were delicious. The cakes were crispy and nutty.

The ragu was just perfect over them. The combination of eggplant, tomatoes, roasted red peppers, garlic and smoked mozzarella was the perfect piquant foil to the mild quinoa cakes.

Served with a green salad with blueberries and strawberries and a homemade poppy seed viniagrette, it was goodness on a plate. Never mind that it was also so good for you.

For quinoa cakes:
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
1 large egg, lightly beaten
dried parsley flakes or oregano to taste
4 to 5 tablespoon olivel oil, divided
For Ragu:
1 1/2 pounds eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup drained bottled roasted red peppers, rinsed and chopped
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf
1/4 pound smoked mozzarella, diced (1 cup)
Make quinoa cakes:
Bring water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan.
Meanwhile, wash quinoa in 3 changes of water in a bowl, then drain well in a fine-mesh sieve.
Stir quinoa into boiling water and return to a boil, then simmer, covered, until quinoa is dry and water is absorbed, 20 to 30 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes.

Transfer to a large bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes, then stir in egg.

Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and lightly brush with oil. Lightly oil a 1 cup dry-ingredient measure. Pack enough quinoa into measure with a rubber spatula to fill it two-thirds full. (If spatula becomes sticky, dip in water.) Unmold onto baking sheet and gently pat quinoa into a 4-inch-wide patty with spatula. Make 3 more quinoa cakes, brushing measure with oil each time. Chill cakes, uncovered, at least 15 minutes.
Make Ragu while quinoa chills:
Toss eggplant with 1 teaspoon salt in a colander and drain 30 minutes. Squeeze handfuls of eggplant to extract liquid, then pat dry.
Cook eggplant, onion, garlic, oregano, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, covered, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, roasted peppers, and water and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until eggplant is very tender and mixture is thick (if dry, thin with a little water), about 10 minutes.
Cook quinoa cakes:
Heat 2 tablespoon oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Carefully add quinoa cakes and cook, turning once carefully and adding remaining 2 to 3 tablespoons oil, until crisp and golden, 8 to 10 minutes total (pat cakes to reshape with cleaned rubber spatula while cooking if necessary). Transfer to plates.
To serve, return eggplant ragu to a simmer and stir in parsley and half of mozzarella, then simmer stirring, until cheese just begins to soften, about 30 seconds. Spoon over quinoa cakes, then sprinkle with remaining mozzarella.
Cooks’ notes:
Quinoa cakes can be formed 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.
Eggplant-tomato ragu, withour parsley and mozzarella, can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.

I am entering this recipe in The Two for Tuesdays blog hop. Go over to Girlichef for all of the links to REAL food posts. We are a group of bloggers who post healthy, made from scratch, real food every Tuesday.

Black Bean Tart With Chili Crust

April 12th, 2010

One of the reasons I love being back at the cottage is that I have access to my considerable collection of Gourmet magazines. They fill the lower shelves of our bookcase and date back to the 1970’s. I still miss my favorite magazine and wish Conde Naste would bring it back. In the meantime, I will continue cooking the well thought out recipes that were published over the years and feel myself lucky to have been such a pack rat. You can still go to Epicurious to download many of their recipes.

Sunday night in our house is either pizza night or experimentation night. This black bean tart is just the kind of meal that fits the offbeat unusual meal that I favor. I love the spice accented buttery crumbly crust that is so easy to assemble and pat into a 10″ tart pan. I love the vibrant colors of the bean, corn, and red pepper toppings. And I love the flavor combination with the accompanying lime sour cream on the top. Add a salad and you have a supper to savor.

For crust:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick chilled unsalted butter, cut into bits
2 to 4 tablespoons ice water
raw rice for weighting shell
For filling:
3 cups drained and rinsed canned black beans
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 10 ounce package frozen corn, thawed
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup fresh coriander sprigs, chopped (I omitted because I did have this)
1 1/2 cups coarsely grated Monterey Jack cheese (about 6 ounces)
2 fresh jalapeno chilies, seeded and chopped fine (use less if desired)
1/2 cup chopped scallions (about 2)
Lime sour cream (recipe follows)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Make crust:
In a bowl with a pastry blender or in a food precessor blend or pulse together flour, spices, and salt until combined well. Add butter and blend or pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water and blend or pulse until incorporated and mixture forms a dough. Press dough evenly onto bottom and sides of a 10″ tart pan with a removable fluted rim and chill 15 minutes, or until firm. Line shell with foil and fill with rice. Bake shell in middle of oven until edge is set, 8 to 10 minutes. Carefully remove foil and rice and bake crust 10 minutes more, or until golden. Cool crust in pan on a rack. Crust may be made 1 day ahead and kept at room temperature, covered loosely with plastic wrap.
Make filling:
In a food processor puree 1 cup of drained canned beans with sour cream until smooth and season with salt and pepper.
In a skillet heat oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and saute corn with salt and pepper to taste, stirring, about 2 minutes. Cool corn.
In a large bowl stir together corn, whole beans, bell pepper, coriander, Monterey Jack, jalapenos, and scallions and season with salt and pepper.
Spread bean puree evely onto curst and mound with remaining filling, pressing gently. Bake tart in middle of oven about 20 minutes, or until hot cheese is melted. Let tart cool in pan on a rack 15 minutes.
Remove rim of pan serve tart warm or at room temperature with lime sour cream. Serves 6.
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Lime zest to taste
In a bowl whisk sour cream, lime juice and zest. May be made 1 day ahead and chilled covered.

The Pennys do Lunch

June 26th, 2009

I love blogging. There are so many wonderful people out there in cyberspace. When I first started I knew no one, but over the course of the last six months I feel I have come to know so many. Penny is one of them. At first I was surprised that we had the same name. Then as the comments flew back and forth we found out that we live practically next door to each other; she in Hendersonville and I in Lake Lure. On further exchanges we found out that we both grew up in Michigan, she on a lake and I near a lake. I would venture to say that we are close to the same age but we didn’t go there. Penny is a mosaic artist and has two blogs. One is Lavender Hill Studio where she features her art work and the other is The Comforts of Home, a design blog that also features some of her wonderful recipes. We have been planning to get together for some time now and earlier this week we did.
We met in Landrum, SC, a charming small town just across the State line and spent the morning shopping and antiquing. We had lunch at a delightful restaurant called Stone Soup. Penny had the zucchini, corn and goat cheese quesadillas.

I had the black-eyed pea cakes on a bed of greens. Both dishes were very tasty and colorful.

I now have a new friend and we are planning to get together again soon. I highly recommend getting to know your blogging buddies. Visit Penny’s blog for more pictures of our day and the fable about stone soup.

I have always wanted to try black-eyed pea cakes. They are served often in vegetarian restaurants and remind me of crab cakes in the way they are prepared. After having them at the restaurant, I decided to try them at home. I found a recipe that came originally from Southern Living Magazine and fixed them for lunch recently. They added an unusual and pleasant topping to salad greens. I think they would also make a great appetizer with a dollop of chow chow on top. See A Southern Grace for that recipe.


1 small onion chopped
1 Tbls olive oil
2 (15.5 ounce) cans black-eyed peas, rinsed, drained, and divided
1 (8 ounce) container chive-and-onion-flavored cream cheese, softened
1 large egg
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp hot sauce
1 (8 ounce) package hush puppy mix with onion
olive oil

Saute onion in 1 tablespoon hot oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until tender. Process onion, 1 can of peas, and next 4 ingredients in a blender or food processor until mixture is smooth, stopping to scrape down sides. Stir in hush puppy mix, and gently fold in remaining can of peas.

Shape mixture by 2 tablespoonfuls into 3 inch patties, and place on a wax paper-lined baking sheet. Cover and chill 1 hour.

Cook patties, in batches, in 3 tablespoons hot oil, adding oil as needed, in a large skillet over medium heat for 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until patties are golden brown. Drain patties on paper towels, and keep them warm. Serve with desired toppings or on a salad.

Printable recipe

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.