Thursday, September 29, 2011

Peggy’s Bday : ) Ratatouille and Silky Parmesan [Part 2 of 3]

From HDs and now on to the table to have a seat, a lingering look at the river, and a nice crisp glass of Cakebread Savignon Blanc mmmmm. oh, and our first course…

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Peggy planted basil and some other herbs for me in the Spring, so basil from the yard was a natural focus on the 1st course. Then, because my in-laws love parmesan, rather than doing a sauce I included a parmesan mousse and finished the plate with ‘balsamic dots’ – balsamic syrup polka dots decorating the plate from a squeeze bottle.

The tart is a favorite recipe of mine from culinary school. It’s very simple and clearly relies on freshness and super simple technique, but I’ll confess, when this first wooed me back in school, we made it with bulk-purchase roma tomatoes and I was surprised by the flavor of the finished tart. So if that’s what you have access to, I’d say go ahead and try it – individual like these, or large cut into wedges. It makes a great lunch with a salad or on a buffet with salmon or eggs. All things herby and earthy are nice next to it. I love these easy, elegant and sea salty ways to eat because of they’re so reliable and versatile.

 

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… in a restaurant I would have only served a wedge of the tartlet for this plate to be elegant, but as a hybrid of restaurant and home cooking we got a bit of a clumsy plate, but pretty good eating : )

Finally, I got to the ratatouille, sauteeing each vegetable separately, cooling and then combining all but the eggplant and finished it with lemon zested on a microplane. Cooking and cooling each diced veg separately helps keep the mix from getting muddy in taste and appearance when you mix it together, and the barely detectable lemon keeps it bright in flavor. Lemon zest works great that way in a lot of things. I love how delicate the Japanese eggplant is, so I kept the coins separate to put down as a base for the rest of the ratatouille. 

 

Parmesan Mousse

1.5 cups parmesan cheese, grated – the best quality piece you can get with rind if possible, grate at home and keep the rind

1 cup whole milk

1 clove garlic

1 fresh sage leaf

.5 packet gelatin

.25 tsp salt

.5 tsp black pepper, fresh coarse grind

1 cup heavy cream

vegalene or other neutral cooking spray

– combine milk, .5 cup heavy cream, garlic, sage, salt and pepper over medium heat and watch carefully

– when milk begins to simmer around the edge of the pot ad grated parm and ant rind

– you have to watch it and stir with a whisk or wooden spoon, but allow to simmer gently for 15 minutes

– remove from heat, strain thru a chinois or either fine mesh, pressing on solids, then whisk in gelatin

– allow liquid to cool and whip remaining .5 cup heavy cream to medium-stiff peaks

– when liquid is cooled (strain again if it looks unsmooth or gelatin clumped up) and fold in whipped cream

– turn into a small glass, conringware or other non-metallic dish sprayed with non-stick spray and allow to set up in the fridge

– to serve I cut rectangles, but you can cut tiny squares, do mini scoops, quenelles, whatever lucious parm shape you want!

Tomato Zucchini Tarts
pate brisee (in basic recipes)

4-5 medium zucchini, 1/4″ slices
1 dozen baby heirloom or 5 plum tomatoes, 1/4″ slices
basil chiffenade
gruyere cheese, grated
3 tbsp olive oil (good stuff), salt and pepper

– heat oven to 350 degrees

– combine olive oil with a pinch of each salt and pepper
– roll pastry dough to 1/4″ thickness for your tart pan(s)
– lay dough into tart pan(s)
– sprinkle bottom of tart with the gruyere and basil
– from the outer edge alternately tile the tomato and zucchini slices, brushing with the seasoned olive oil as you go
– bake uncovered for 12 – 18 minutes

 

Ratatouille

 

1-2 small zucchini, small dice
1/2 red onion, small dice
1-2 baby Japanese eggplant, sliced or about half of a larger eggplant, small dice
1/4 cup roasted red pepper, very small dice
1 tbsp tomato paste
basil chiffenade
1 lemon on microplane

 

– saute zucchini, then the eggplant – each over medium high heat in olive oil, season with salt and pepper, about 5 minutes then turn onto a sheet tray to cool
– saute red onion over high heat, then turn heat down and allow to soften; add tomato paste and cook 1-2 minutes more then turn onto sheet tray
– once cooled, combine zucchini, onion, red pepper with basil and lemon zest and seasoning to taste
– to plate, warm slighty, put down eggplant coins and top with remaining ratatouille

 

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