Category Archives: squash

Ratatouille, MadrileƱo-style

I’ve loved ratatouille ever since I studied abroad, when Esperanza, the woman I lived with in Madrid, introduced me to it. I recently came across this recipe on Smitten Kitchen that looked like fun, and decided to adapt it. I wanted to make this a full dinner, so after a little debate, I settled on chickpeas to add protein, feeling inspired by another dish Esperanza used to make, chickpeas cooked in a tomato sauce. And the best part is, as impressive as it looks when it’s finished, it took me 30 minutes to get it completely prepped and into the oven.

Recipe: Ratatouille MadrileƱo-style
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen‘s “Ratatouille’s Ratatouille”

1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, then chopped
14-oz can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small eggplant, if you like. I didn’t have one, so I skipped the eggplant altogether.
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow squash
1 red bell pepper (look for one of the longer, thinner ones)
1 14-0z can garbanzo beans
Whatever herbs you have around -I was out of fresh and used “italian seasoning” herb mix – rosemary, thyme and oregano.
Salt and pepper

Start by preheating the oven to 375 degrees.

Pour the tomatoes into a baking dish (mine was about 9×13) and mash with a wooden spoon or potato masher, just to break the large pieces into smaller ones and release some pulp. Mix in the chopped onion, garlic and one tablespoon of olive oil.

Next, slice the squash, zucchini and red pepper. I used the slicer on a box grater to speed up the slicing of the squash and zucchini. Slice the pepper as thinly as possible.

Next, start building your dish. Begin in one corner of the baking dish and start stacking the vegetables, one of each kind, then repeating, overlapping them so that only a small amount of the previous vegetable shows.

Continue around the corner. I ended up cutting a bunch of my pepper slices in half to make it fit better. At the end, when you’ve gone all the way around, you may want to add in more pieces if you have leftover and there seems to be space.

Fill the center of the dish with chickpeas. Sprinkle the remaining olive oil over all the vegetables, and salt and pepper the whole dish. Add the herbs. If you are using dry herbs, as I did, crush the flakes in the palm of your hand before adding them; this releases the flavors.

Cover the whole dish with tinfoil and bake 50 minutes. The mixture will be bubbly and the vegetables should look cooked but not limp. Serve over rice, making sure to spoon the tomato sauce in the bottom of the dish over the ratatouille. Bon apetit!


"So good you’ll forget the leaves don’t change color in Austin" Fall Squash Soup

After a string of cloudy, muggy days, the humidity broke, and a cold front brought rainy, chilly fall weather to Austin. Not that I’m complaining – my East Coast friends and family have been tolerating this weather for a month already. And let’s be honest – I see most things as an opportunity to cook or eat, weather changes included. So I woke up to the gray drizzle this morning, and thought soup was in order. This soup is easy and tastes luxurious, in spite of actually being very healthful. The milk makes it velvety, rich and perfect for a cold afternoon.

Thanks for Rachel for inspiring this recipe. She told me she had made an easy sweet potato-zucchini soup, so I adapted her recipe to the ingredients I had in the refrigerator. Don’t be afraid to get creative with ingredients or garnishes. Rachel added cannellini beans for protein to make a meal out of the soup; I like chopped jack cheese stirred into mine. Salty crumbled bacon would offset the sweetness of the squash nicely, or stir in al dente orzo to add texture and bulk.

-Olive oil for sauteeing
-1 large yellow onion, chopped
-Butternut squash (about 2 lbs), peeled, seeded and cubed
-Any other squash you have lying around -I used a local sunburst squash – peeled, seeded and chopped
-1 orange bell pepper – quartered
-1 clove garlic, chopped
-1 cup chicken stock, or vegetable stock if you want a vegetarian soup
– 2/3 cup milk (I used skim with a splash of half and half – you could go richer or lighter depending on the milk you use, but if you use cream, you must add it after the blending step! It will curdle if you simmer it.)
– Salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick pot. Saute onion over medium-low heat until translucent. Try to avoid browning the onion at this point. **Tip: To sweat onions faster, add a sprinkle of salt – the salt draws moisture out of the onion!
2. Add the squash, zucchini, bell pepper, and garlic. Sautee on medium-low heat until soft, about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping browned bits from the bottom of the pot.
3. At this point, pull out the bell pepper quarters, and peel them. The peel should come away from the flesh easily. Return them to the pot.
3. Add the milk and stock. Stir, reduce heat to very low, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Don’t worry if the milk separates a little – when you blend the soup, it will all be integrated.
4. Pour the whole mixture into a blender, or use an immersion blender if you have one. Blend until completely pureed.
5. Garnish and serve!