The Epicurious Vegetarian

I was a serious vegetarian for a long time. It started over a bet, not for any moral high ground reason, about giving up BBQ spareribs. I don’t remember what was at stake for the winner (me, by the way) or even if there was a payoff, but it opened a whole new world and way of looking at and cooking food.

Today, while the grocery aisles are filled with vegetarian options galore, it wasn’t always that easy. Necessity did become the mother of invention and one of my go-to meals became ratatouille.

How many times were you told, or have you said, “Eat your veggies, they’re good for you?” Yep. True.

While rich in all kinds of nutrients, as well as a stunning array of colors, doesn’t it really start with flavor first? Incredibly delicious vegetable dishes shine in our October and November classes, with their taste front and center.

Saturday at 11 a.m. you can cook with the ladies who ran Tucson’s Greek Festival for 22 years, Nancy Jimmerson and Genie Gekas Patterson, and create the best ever Spanakopita. On the 24th, Chef Devon Sanner is making spaghetti squash like you’ve never had before and next month you’ll make amazing butternut squash stuffed chile rellenos en nogada with him.

Wishing you much joy in the kitchen and I look forward to virtually seeing you soon!
Michele

Ratatouille

1 onion
1 smallish eggplant
2 small bell peppers, your choice of colors
1 medium zucchini
1 small cucumber
2-3 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup vegetable stock or broth, heated
1 cup potato peel broth, heated (recipe below)
¾ cup tomato paste
3 tomatoes
⅔ cup simple vinaigrette dressing (recipe below)

1. Coarsely chop the onion, dice eggplant into 1” cubes, quarter the bell peppers and thinly slice, cut the zucchini into ½” slices, peel, seed and dice the cucumber and finely mince the garlic.
2. Heat the olive oil in a very large skillet or sauté pan and add the onion. Cook 3-5 minutes or until translucent, then add the garlic, stir to combine, then add zucchini, eggplant and bell peppers. Stir to ensure everything is evenly coated in oil.
3. In a bowl, combine the warm stock or broth, potato peel broth and tomato paste. Pour over the vegetables and add the cucumber.
4. Slowly cook in the liquid, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is almost gone – about 1 hour. The vegetables should be very tender but not falling apart.
5. While cooking, cut the tomatoes into eights and 1-2 minutes before taking the ratatouille off the burner, stir in the tomatoes.
6. The dish may be served hot off the stove; in which case the vinaigrette is omitted.
7. Otherwise, cool the mixture, then pour vinaigrette over it and lightly toss.

Potato Peel Broth

Peels from 6-7 large potatoes
1 large onion
2 carrots
1 celery stalk
Parsley sprigs, small handful
1-3 garlic cloves, peeled (optional)
Salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 ½ quarts water

1. Wash the potatoes well, then peel, taking off strips at least ¼” thick. Peel and quarter the onion. Wash carrots and celery and cut into large pieces.
2. In a large pot, add the vegetables, water, parsley and garlic. Simmer over low heat for about 1½ hours or until all the vegetables are very soft. Add water as it evaporates, keeping everything covered.
3. When everything is very tender, there are two options: For a clear broth, simply strain off the liquid and adjust the seasoning. For soups where a very thin puree consistency is desired, remove the celery and garlic and press the rest through a sieve or food mill until only the dry pulp of the peels remains.

For variations, add bay leaf or sweet basil. The basic broth should be fragrant, light brown in color and delicious all by itself.

Simple Vinaigrette Dressing

¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

1. In a mason jar with a tight-fitting lid, add all the ingredients and shake vigorously to emulsify.

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