ratdone

In honor of all things (Julie and) Julia, I recently pulled out and have been reading through my first edition copy (one of the benefits of my stint as a rare and used bookseller a few years back!) of Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

juliacover

When I found out about the 4th annual Julia Child birthday celebration blogging event from Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen, I decided to make one of the recipes from the book. But I’ve kind of been going overboard with the baking and ice cream lately, so I didn’t want to do something too rich (and most of the recipes in the book do indeed fall into that category- I really have to hand it to Julie Powell for cooking and eating all 524!).

The ratatouille recipe seemed the perfect one to try, since (don’t tell anyone) I have honestly never made a “proper ratatouille” before. I’ve never taken the time to seed the tomatoes and I usually just sauté all the requisite ingredients together.

I recently learned, however, (thanks to Melissa D’Arabian, winner of this season’s The Next Food Network Star) that this is not how you are supposed to make this dish; in order to “do ratatouille right”, the vegetables should be cooked separately in a layered fashion so they retain their individual characteristics and so that the flavors build upon one another.

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As stated in the book (see above), this ratatouille is not quick to prepare; in fact, it’s pretty “high maintenance” in my opinion. But I promise you it is worth it; it’s by far the best ratatouille I’ve ever tasted.

Ratatouille
adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child

Ingredients:
½ lb. eggplant
½ lb. zucchini (I used a combination of zucchini and pattypan squash from my garden)
1 tsp. salt
4 Tb. olive oil, more if needed
½ lb. (about 1 ½ cups) thinly sliced yellow onions
2 (about 1 cup) sliced green bell peppers (I used 1)
2-3 Tb. olive oil, if necessary
2 cloves mashed garlic
1 lb. firm, ripe, red tomatoes, peeled, seeded and juiced to make 1 ½ cups pulp (I used a combination of red and yellow tomatoes from my garden)
3 Tb. minced parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Peel the eggplant and cut into slices 3/8 inch thick, about 3 inches long, and 1 inch wide. Scrub the zucchini, slice off the two ends, and cut like the eggplant. Place in a bowl and toss with the salt. Let stand for 30 minutes.

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Drain your eggplant and zucchini slices and dry them on a towel.

dryingeggplantandzucchini

One layer at a time, sautée the eggplant, and then the zucchini in hot olive oil for about a minute on each side to brown very lightly. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same skillet, cook the onions and the peppers slowly in olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until tender but now browned. Stir in the garlic and season to taste.

onionandpeppersaute

Boil a small pot of water and immerse your tomatoes for about 10 seconds. Remove, cool, and peel off the skins.

peelingtomato

Slice the peeled tomatoes through the center, and gently squeeze them over a bowl to extract the juices and seeds. Slice the juiced and seeded tomatoes (Julia calls this the “tomato pulp”) into 3/8 inch strips.

tomatopulp

Lay the sliced tomato pulp over the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or until the tomatoes have begun to render their juice. Uncover, baste with the juices, raise heat and boil for several minutes, until juice has almost evaporated.

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Place a third of the tomato mixture in the bottom of a heavy casserole pot (the recipe calls for a 2 1/2 quart fireproof casserole about 2 1/2 inches deep) and sprinkle over it 1 Tb. of parsley. Arrange half of the eggplant and zucchini on top, then half the remaining tomatoes and parsley. Put in the rest of the eggplant and zucchini, and finish with the remaining tomatoes and parsley.

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Cover the casserole and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover, tip casserole and baste with the rendered juices Correct seasoning, if necessary. Raise heat slightly and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes more, basting several times, until juices have evaporated leaving a spoonful or two of flavored olive oil. Be careful of your heat; do not let the vegetables scorch in the bottom of the casserole.

Set aside, uncovered, and reheat slowly at serving time, or serve cold.

gardeneggsalad

This organic garden salad with blue potatoes and eggs is a great example of how I am eating these days. I love salads like this because they are so nutritious and so beautiful. I grew all the veggies except the blue potatoes in my organic garden. The potatoes came from a local farm; I’m definitely planting potatoes next year, though.

sungoldtomatoes

If you don’t have a garden, that’s perfectly ok. You can find everything for this salad at your local farmer’s market or your favorite spot for fresh produce. No blue potatoes? No problem. Just substitute small red potatoes instead, or leave out the potatoes entirely.

gardencarrots

Don’t want to use egg? That’s fine, too. I like having hard-boiled eggs around for snacks and to use as an inexpensive protein in salads (I always use organic, free-range eggs). If you eat meat/fish, you could top your salad with some organic cooked meat or wild fish instead, or you if you are vegan, boost the protein with beans and/or some nuts or seeds.

Organic Garden Salad with Blue Potatoes and Eggs
2-3 cups mixed salad greens or leaf lettuce, chopped into small pieces
1 medium carrot, peeled if not organic, and chopped into small pieces
1 medium cucumber, peeled if not organic, and chopped into small pieces
15-20 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
2 large beets, rinsed to remove all dirt
6 small blue potatoes, rinsed to remove all dirt
2-3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced into wedges
Course sea salt to taste

Boil a small pot of water and add the beets and potatoes. Cook for 30-40 minutes, until the vegetables are soft when pierced with a fork. Pour off the water and allow to cool.

While the beets and potatoes are boiling, place the rest of the chopped vegetables in a large bowl and mix well. Season with some course sea salt and mix again.

When the beets are cooked and cool enough to handle, peel off and discard the skins. Chop into small pieces and add to the other vegetables. Slice the potatoes into wedges. Chop all but 6-8 of the wedges into smaller pieces and add to the other vegetables. Set the 6-8 potato wedges aside with the hard-boiled eggs. Make the simple garlic vinaigrette dressing.

Simple Garlic Vinaigrette
This is a very “garlic-y” dressing. If you don’t love garlic, use a smaller clove or omit entirely.

1 large clove of garlic
2 Tb. olive oil
1 Tb. balsamic vinegar

Peel the garlic and using the side of a large knife, smash the garlic. Mince very fine and set aside. In a small bowl, mix the oil and vinegar together with a fork. Add the garlic and mix well.

To assemble the salad, spoon the chopped vegetables onto a large plate. Arrange the potato and egg wedges decoratively on top of the salad. Drizzle the dressing over the salad. Season again with course sea salt to taste. Serves 2-4.

Related posts I think you will enjoy:
More Healthy Salad Recipes From Healthy Green Lifestyle
Tomato Cucumber and Radish Salad from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Purple Potato Cauliflower Soup from Ceramic Canvas

mintchoc

Since the inception of Healthy Green Kitchen, I’ve been conflicted about posting dessert recipes. My goal is to encourage people to eat healthy, and let’s be honest, most desserts just don’t really fit in with the theme.

I thought about it a lot, though, and came to the conclusion that this blog is about the recipes I make. So if I make something that isn’t super healthy, but I feel that it’s worth sharing, I am going to share it.

I eat an overall healthy diet, but I am not going to lie- I love making sweets every now and then. I also enjoy signing on for various baking and cooking blogging challenges. So if you see a recipe here that just doesn’t seem to fit with the others, there’s probably a reason, and I’ll always give you some background if that is the case.

I often use alternative flours and sweeteners, and I love to experiment with vegan and gluten-free baking. I almost always try to use all organic ingredients; at the very least my ingredients are real and all-natural. But I think it’s disingenuous to pretend I never eat dessert. Just keep in mind that I do think sweets should only be consumed in moderation, and only in the context of a balanced healthy diet. If you are trying to lose weight or if you struggle with poor health, then I do suggest you limit the sweets.

Now on to the ice cream!

I celebrated my birthday recently and I was ecstatic about getting a new ice cream maker and a copy of David Lebovitz’ ice cream, sorbet, and frozen yogurt recipe book: The Perfect Scoop. Thanks Dad!

The Perfect Scoop is no lightweight paperback. It’s a beautiful book that completely surpassed my expectations before I’d even made my first batch of ice cream! I really love the way David writes about food, he always uses “real” ingredients, and there are actually quite a few healthy recipes in the book …

I was quite indecisive about which recipe to try first, though. It’s not like I eat all that much ice cream, so I wanted to make sure it would be something really good.

After I’d read through the book several times, it hit me.

I have a gorgeous patch of mint I inherited when I moved into my home, so I decided to make the Fresh Mint Ice Cream.

mint1

Mint has a reputation of being very invasive, but I just love having it around. Mint aids digestion, so I like the idea of incorporating it into desert. David’s recipe does not contain chocolate chips, but I just couldn’t resist adding them.

I made just a few changes to the Fresh Mint Ice Cream recipe. I used all organic ingredients, and I used organic 2% milk instead of regular milk and organic half and half instead of heavy cream. So the result is just a little lighter than the original recipe, but then I went ahead and added the chocolate, so I guess it all kind of evens out.

David calls for 2 cups of fresh mint leaves. I used this amount and felt that the end product, while delicious, could be a bit “more minty”; perhaps the mint David used in developing the recipe was a stronger variety. So I’d consider using more mint next time, or maybe adding a tiny bit of all natural mint extract.

Fresh Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream
Adapted from David Lebovitz’ The Perfect Scoop

Ingredients:
1 cup organic 2 % milk (or whole milk)
2 cups organic half and half (or heavy cream)
3/4 cup organic sugar
pinch of Himalayan or sea salt
2 cups lightly packed fresh mint leaves
5 egg yolks, preferable from organic, free-range chickens
1 cup organic semi-sweet or dark chocolate chips (I chopped mine from a bar)

Directions:
Heat the milk, 1 cup of the half and half or cream, the sugar and the salt in a pot. Remove from heat before it comes to a boil, add the mint leaves, and cover. Allow the mint to infuse for about 1 hour.

infusingmint

Pour the infused liquid through a strainer into a bowl, squeezing out the mint leaves to extract all of their flavor. Compost or discard the mint. Reheat the minty milk mixture over medium heat to just before boiling, and then set it aside.

Pour the remaining 1 cup of cream into a medium size metal bowl, and place it in ice water over a larger bowl. Place a mesh strainer on top of the bowls and set aside.

Beat the egg yolks with a wire whisk.

whiskingeggs

Slowly pour the warmed milk mixture into the egg yolks; whisk constantly while you do this so that the egg yolks don’t cook.

whiskingcustard

Pour the warmed egg milk mixture back into a saucepan. Stir constantly over medium heat, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon.

Remove from the heat immediately and pour the custard through the strainer into the cold cream. Mix well.

strainingcustardChill the custard completely in the refrigerator, add the chocolate chips, and then proceed to make ice cream according to your manufacturer’s instructions.

This is my new ice cream maker and I am very happy with it.

I was previously using the Kitchen Aid ice cream attachment which disappointingly never allowed my ice cream to get beyond very very soft.

This machine has gotten great reviews and it’s very reasonably priced. It is nice looking, it is easy to use, and it is amazingly fast. It is also very easy to clean.

If you like being able to make homemade frozen desserts, I highly recommend it.

WHB3-1This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, an event managed by Haalo from Cook Almost Anything. This week’s host is Dhanggit from Dhangitt’s Kitchen!