Thursday, September 11, 2008

Au Revoir 'Le Midi'

Having just returned from a several week 'les vacances' in Languedoc-Roussillon, France, I'm so far behind with work that of course the only thing I can do is reflect on the trip. Unlike my recent trips to the other side of 'the little pond' this jaunt was mainly for pleasure and relaxation (although I did manage to scout some great cooking facilities and locales for culinary excursions). Home base for the majority of our stay was the picturesque hill town of Le Puech, just outside the Lodeve in central Languedoc. Situated in a small stone house, with majestic views of the nearby hills and vineyards, we had a great pad for preparing the delicious offerings of the many local farmer's markets. (if you wonder how many farmer's markets we visited consider this quote from my seven-year-old nephew: "we have to go to the market AGAIN! We just went yesterday!). As our stay coincided with the peak of the local harvest, whether it be wine, tomatoes, squash, you name it, there was a lot to pick from. And trying to stay authentic to the 'terroir' of the goodies, I typically prepared dishes native to the South of France. Things like: Roast Lamb with Baby Potatoes & Rosemary, Steamed Mussels in Pic St-Loup & Leeks, Entrecote de Boeuf with Onions & Crusty Bread, and of course Ratatouille. Maybe it was the setting, like limes always tasting better in the Caribbean, but the Ratatouille tasted amazing when I made it in France. It could have been the squash, tomatoes and eggplant that had never seen the inside of a refrigerator coupled with the local fruity olive oil and juicy garlic that made my ratatouille so memorable. Or perhaps it was all the local rose wine we were enjoying that skewered our senses. On a romantic note, could it have been the pleasure of relaxing and spending time with loved ones in a wonderful setting that explains my delicious memories. My guess is like a good ratatouille, where all the ingredients gradually meld into one delicious mix, it was a combination of all the above.

As the fall is quickly approaching, meaning more autumn squash and fewer tomatoes, I'm sharing my recipe for the Northern Italian version of ratatouille: Tiello. Enjoy!

Autumn Vegetable Tiello

Quantity Produced: Serves 6-8 as Side

Olive Oil, EV 6 Tablespoons
Butternut Squash, Cut in 1 ½” Chunks 1 Medium Squash
Red Pepper, Cut in 1 ½ “ Chunks 1 Medium
Carrot, Peeled/Cut in 1 ½” Chunks 3 Carrots
Onion, Peeled/Cut in 1 ½” Chunks 1 Medium
Celery, Peeled/Cut in 1 ½’ Chunks 2 Stalks
Honey 3 Tablespoons
Lemon Juice, Fresh 3 Tablespoons
Kosher Salt To Taste
Fresh Black Pepper To Taste

Italian Plum Tomatoes 1/ 12oz. Can
Red Wine Vinegar 3 Tablespoons
Honey or Sugar 2 Tablespoons
Oregano, Dried 2 Teaspoons

Preparation Procedure-

Preheat oven to 450d.. Using 2 tablespoons of the oil, grease a roasting pan just large enough to hold vegetables comfortably. Toss vegetables with remaining oil, lemon juice, salt & pepper. Drizzle with honey. Roast vegetables, stirring occasionally, until tender 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. While the vegetables are cooking, in a small heavy-bottomed sauce pan combine tomatoes, vinegar, honey/sugar and oregano. Cook over medium high heat until thick and tomatoes have broken up 15 minutes. Season to taste and pour over the roasted vegetables. Roast in oven for additional 15 to 20 minutes or until glazed and soft.