Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ratatouille and a Fruit Tart

Did you see the movie? I loved it--the darling French rat with gourmet dreams was absolutely charming. Technically, the movie was brilliant, and the story was great. But....what was with the signature dish? Ratatouille all tarted up to look sleek and elegant? I'm sorry, but I don't think so. On the other hand, I don't like it all slopped together, either, so it comes out like a lumpy pizza sauce. I've had some lousy ratatouille in my time and really what I like best is my own which is based on a recipe by the ever fabulous Deborah Madison who always seems to know when to simplify and when it's really worth the fuss. Despite being not terribly photogenic, this dish is worth the fuss.

We hit the farmers market today and came home with all the necessary ingredients: eggplant, zucchini, peppers, and tomatoes, all of which were gorgeous. At home I began the slicing, salting, and sauteeing. It's a long process, but sauteeing each vegetable separately in olive oil and then baking them together gently is what makes the dish so delicious, especially topped with reduced pan juices for extra flavor. We'll eat it served with polenta, fresh bread, and locally made goat cheese.

All the fresh fruit at the market was calling out to me and I was inspired to make a simple fruit tart for dessert. It's an old family recipe: a simple, buttery dough topped with summer fruit to which I've added one small (but delicious) flourish. I know my great grandmother would certainly have approved of the thin layer of barely sweetened cream cheese I added between the fruit and the dough.

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