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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ratatouille - Style Chili

I made this tonight for Supper and it turned out so good I am writing it down so I don't forget it and can make it again.

Ratatouille - Style Chili
Vegan, GF/CF

All Organic
The fresh ingredients are locally grown

1 - 2 TBPSP Safflower Oil
1 TBPSP Olive Oil, Extra Virgin
2 TBSP butter
1 can of black beans, drained
1 can of diced Italian tomatoes
1/3 can of tomato paste
1 small Yukon Gold potato, sliced into crecents
2 small fresh carrots with tops, sliced thin
Big handful of fresh Turnip greens
1 medium fresh Zucchini
Large package of fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 large fresh yellow onion, diced
Butter Leaf (Boston) Lettuce, rinsed off and torn into medium sized pieces
2 cloves fresh garlic, diced
1/2 cup water
Salt and Pepper to taste.

In a large cast iron skillet, sautee the onion in a tablespoon of Safflower oil,
after they start to get clear, add the garlic, and a little salt and pepper,
sautee a few more minutes.
Then add the butter and the mushrooms, cook about 4 more minutes.
Add the olive oil and the rest of the fresh vegetables, and a little more salt and pepper.
Add the tomato paste, diced tomatoes, black beans.
Cover and cook about ten minutes until all vegetables are just soft, adding water as needed to keep the chili from getting too thick. I made mine so that there was almost a soup-like sauce at the end.
Don't overcook the vegetables. I added the Turnip greens last.

Arrange the Butter leaf lettuce on plates to cover the plate. Spoon the chili over the lettuce just before serving.

NOTES and Cooking Tips:

The small potato is mainly for thickening the sauce. Crush a few of the small slices as you cook to make the sauce as thick as you like.

Sauteeing each different vegetable in different oils made the dish taste more interesting. Don't use too much oil or it will taste greasy and overpower the vegetables.

I learned this tip of adding salt and pepper a bit to each ingredient as it was added to the dish, it is like layering the flavours as you go.

This is a good dish if you are dieting as it is very low in calories, and is a nice change from having cold salads all the time.

The zucchini is soothing to the stomach. Did you know that zucchini is not a vegetable, but is technically an unripe fruit? You can also eat the zucchini flowers, put them on the plate as a garnish, lightly cooked.

Fresh is very important.
I shop almost daily, get what looks good, is in season and try to find things grown as close to where I live as possible. This sounds like more work, but it is actually fun, and everything you make will taste better, you will use your refrigerator a lot less, and so you won't have to clean it out as much (no more wilted, mouldy stuff in the vegetable bin.) Vegetables taste so much better if you eat them the same day you buy them. Vegetables loose up to half of their vitamins to evaporation during storage and transportation. So you will feel more satisfied by the food you eat for a longer time, and will feel less hungry later on.

Don't forget to put your vegetable scraps in a compost bin. I use an old ice cream container with a tight-fitting lid, then take the scraps out to the compost pile when it is full. Even if you have a very tiny garden, you can compost all of your vegetable kitchen scraps. Just pile them up in a location that isn't right next to your house and put dead leaves and twigs over them, and mix it up once in a while. Your house's foundation bushes will love some compost once a year, too.

When you open a can of tomato paste, take a small zip-lock bag (I use the 1/2 size) and put a large spoonful in the bag, zip it up and put it in the freezer. I usually use only 1/3 of a can in any dish, and the other two thirds becomes two freezer portions. Then you can grab one out of the freezer and add it to any dish quickly and none of the paste goes to waste. The half-size zip lock bags are better for the environment for when you don't need a larger size bag, so there is less waste. I try to keep a variety of sizes so that I never need to use more plastic than necessary.

I store my leftovers in glass containers with silicone locking-lids. I found rectangular-shaped ones at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I like the square shape because they fit together better in the fridge and stack easier than the round shape, saving space.

My grandmother used to have a set of pretty rectangular colored-glass containers with fitted clear glass lids that I loved. Hers were yellow on the outside and white milky glass on the inside, but they used to come in other colors. I wish someone would make them again. You can only find them in antique stores now. I prefer using glass because they are re-usable, have no chemicals to leach into the food, produce no waste, and they are nice for taking along to pot-lucks since they look nicer than plastic. You can use them to warm things up in the microwave, although lately I have been avoiding the microwave and trying to cook without it.

Cast iron is a great cooking material. Cast iron is inexpensive, and will last longer than you and your grandchildren. Some people use them for many generations and pass them down as family heirlooms. (Good for the environment, since each generation doesn't need to buy a whole new set of cooking pots, and less pots end up in the landfill.)

You can get some of your dietary iron from cooking in cast iron. They require a little different care than other types of pans, but it doesn't take longer -- its just different. I will post more about cooking with cast iron in another posting.

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