Friday, July 22, 2016

Farmers Market Summer Vegetables Tian

In my last post I referred to the movie Ratatouille. Specifically, I mentioned that the consultant, Thomas Keller, had the rats prepare a much showier dish than a ratatouille. The rodents served a tian.

A tian is a stacked vegetable dish named after the traditional earthenware Provencal casserole used to cook it. has an outstanding modernized version that resembles the movie dish. But I'm going to do something a little different here.

I visited the Thursday farmers market in Eureka Springs. I came away with what they called candy onions, zucchini, eggplant, waxy potatoes, and tomatoes. My lovely wife grows many different herbs for us on our back deck. In this dish I will use lavender, sage, and thyme. The ingredient list also includes one large clove of garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Let's get started.


One and a half large sweet onions, sliced longitudinally in half inch slices
Five 2 to 3 inch diameter tomatoes
Four 2 to 3 inch diameter eggplants
Two zucchinis 
6 to 8 2 to 3 inch diameter waxy potatoes
Two Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
One cup shredded gruyere or other cheese
One large clove garlic, crushed and minced
One teaspoon fresh thyme leaves plus five sprigs
Four sage leaves
One sprig lavender
Salt and pepper to taste


Slice the onions and slowly caramelize them in 1 Tablespoon of the oil in a nonstick skillet. Do not salt or pepper them until nearly done, but be sure they are well seasoned. When they are done, add the garlic and cook another minute until the garlic becomes fragrant.

Remove the onions and garlic to the bottom of a casserole dish.

Using a chef knife, a santoku, a mandoline, or a V-slicer cut the vegetables into nearly equal thickness discs of about 1/8th inch.

Stack the vegetables in rotation and arrange them pleasingly in the casserole dish on top of the onions.  You can stand them on end or lay them over like fanned cards as you see fit.

Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the vegetables and salt and pepper them well.

Place the tied herb budle on the top of the vegetables and cover them.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove the cover and bake an additional 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the surface with the cheese and return to the oven until the cheese melts and begins to brown.

Remove from the oven and allow to rest, uncovered for 10 minutes.

Serve with grilled meat and a red wine such as a Cote du Rhone. My personal favorite is a South African blend named Goats Do Roam.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Summertime Grilled Ratatouille

A famous chef named Thomas Keller (The French Laundry, Bouchon, et al.) consulted on the movie Ratatouille. Although I have never eaten his food, I have prepared food from his recipes and seen pictures of his presentations. Good heavens, even Williams Sonoma hired him to consult.

Anyway, the great irony of the movie is that the signature dish served to the food critic at the end of the movie is not really ratatouille. It is a tian. I have posted about tians on my facebook Notes. I ought to do that here. But not today.

Instead I will write about a real ratatouille, but not one prepared the way I was taught at Cordon Bleu. This one is grilled. For the example here I grilled indoors using a cast iron grill pan. With the right kind of basket, you could also grill over charcoal.


2 Japanese eggplant, topped and tailed and halved lengthwise
2 zucchini, topped and tailed and halved lengthwise
1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced in half inch ring slabs
5 or 6 sweet Italian peppers
15 to 20 large cherry tomatoes
a large bunch of basil, cut chiffonade
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
1 Tablespoons lemon olive oil
salt and pepper


Spray the zucchini, eggplant, and onion with regular olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and grill until they are well marked and done but still retain a bit of crunch. Remove from the grill. Set aside the vegetables to cool.

The onion may need a minute or two in the microwave to reach the correct doneness. 

While the vegetables cool, use the broiler to blacken and blister both sides of the sweet peppers. Set them aside to cool.

Broil the tomatoes on one side until they blacken, blister, and some have burst. Pour them from the pan into the bowl in which you intend to assemble your ratatouille. Use a fork the burst all of the tomatoes.

When the peppers cool, poke them open with a finger and remove the stem and the seeds. Chop the remaining flesh into half inch pieces. Add them to the tomatoes.

Chop the onion, egg plant, and zucchini into half inch pieces and add them to the mix. 

Add the thyme and the basil, mix well and adjust the salt and pepper to taste. 

Drizzle the vegetables with Lemon olive oil.

Mix well and serve warm or room temperature. The vegetables will refrigerate for a day or two, but bring them to room temperature for service.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Fourth of July Side Dish

This summer, as usual, we had house guests for the weekend of the Fourth of July. Like many years in the past, I smoked a pork shoulder for pulled pork sandwiches. I made some bbq sauce as well. My wife asked for her favorite side dish to that meal, cole slaw. She loves to stack the meat, sauce, and cole slaw on the bun. I admit I do as well.

Cole slaw is like potato salad. There are as many versions as there are families. In our family, we do not mess with broccoli or raisins. Our family version was stolen from Emeril and has a bite and a twang. Allow me to walk you through it.

Use a knife to shred one large head of cabbage.

Seed and large dice a Granny Smith apple. Toss them in lemon juice to keep them from browning.

Slice a large bunch of green onions into rings.

Grate a heaping cup of carrots on the large holes of a box grater.

Combine the vegetables and fruit. Mix together a round 1/4 cup of sugar, a 1/2 cup of cider vinegar, 1 and a half teaspoons of salt, and a teaspoon of ground black pepper. Pour it over the slaw and toss well.

Cover the slaw and let it pickle for 20 to 30 minutes. In the meantime, combine 1 cup of good mayonnaise, 1/4 cup sour cream, 2 Tablespoons stone ground mustard, and 6 heaping Tablespoons of prepared horseradish. (I sometimes add even more if the horseradish is mild.)

When the slaw pickling time elapses, add the creamy mixture to the slaw and mix well.

I promise, this slaw is nothing like that insipid stuff slopped onto plates at bad diners or roadside bbq shacks. This slaw will slap you in the face and make you come back for seconds.