Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hereuse Jour de Bastille!

This is the day that the Bastille, a fortress-prison, was stormed by the peasants in 1790.

Today there is a huge military parade and Sarkozy and the Missus will throw a garden party at the Palais de l'Elysee. All over the world, in fact, the French embassies will be doing similar garden parties.

I wanted to be sure that what I will be serving Sunday was authentic for a French pique-nique, so I checked. Various Website instructed as to what "proper" Bastille Day dishes should be and "they" are so wrong I nearly covered my hairline with my sneer.

Bouillabaisse and French Onion Soup are winter dishes. Crepes or a chocolate mousse would be acceptable, but barely. The only thing suggested that IS picnic food is ratatouille and here's how you make it. This is a very easy dish and much of the content is left up to the cook.

You'll need - one large egg plant or 3 or 4 small ones. Some people slice the egg plant, salt it and let it sit to take away the inherent bitterness. Other people don't. Your choice on how to treat the eggplant.
A medium onion -- red or white -- coarsely chopped.
Couple of zuccini, cut in rounds
Couple of cloves of garlic, minced
4 or 5 tomatoes - beefsteak for more juice; Romas for less
Seasonings - equal parts thyme, rosemary and basil

Get a big pot (I use a pasta pot) and pour in maybe 1/2 cup of olive oil. Because eggplant soaks up olive oil, be prepared to add more.

You want to put the vegetables that take the longest to cook in first, so -
eggplant first, followed by onion, chopped; zuccinis, garlic, minced and lastly 4 or 5 raw tomatoes, sliced or quartered, your choice. Toss in the seasonings.

Keep the burner gentle, put the lid on the pot and leave it alone for 20 or 30 minutes. What happens is that the vegetables release their liquids and they become the "juice" in this dish. It keeps well and is usually served at room temperature. Bon appetit!

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