Harvest Ratatouille with Bacon

Nothing says Mediterranean more than the classic ratatouille. This spin on an old favorite, amped up with chunks of crispy thick bacon, make it a robust meal.

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1 medium-sized eggplant (about 1½ lbs)

2 T olive oil

3-4 medium zucchini (or yellow squash or both, about 1½lbs), thickly sliced

1½ lbs. tomatoes, skin removed and roughly chopped

1 medium sweet bell pepper, largely diced

1 large sweet onion, such as Vidalia, chopped

12oz. thick cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 T Herbs de Provence

Sea salt and pepper to taste

 

Preheat the oven to 425. Peel strips of the eggplant skin from top to bottom, leaving about an inch between each peel. Cut eggplant into large chunks . (If you prefer to leave the peel on, that’s fine, and likewise, removing it entirely is fine). Transfer the eggplant on to a cookie sheet, salt lightly and drizzle with olive oil. Cover tightly with foil, and bake for 20 minutes.

 

While the eggplant is cooking, heat a Dutch oven (or a large deep skillet) and sauté the bacon until fairly crisp. Transfer pieces to a bowl. If there is more than 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings left in the pan, pour off the excess. Add the onion, garlic and peppers into the Dutch oven. Cook until lightly softened, add the zucchini and Herbs de Provence. Cook the zucchini until it begins to soften, about 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil, drop in the tomatoes to release the skin. Rinse immediately in cold water and peel the skin from the tomatoes. Coarsely chop the tomatoes, transfer them to the Dutch oven and cook for about 5 minutes.

 

Remove the eggplant from the oven, add it to the Dutch oven; add the bacon pieces. Let the ratatouille cook together another 20 minutes; adjust the seasoning for salt and pepper. At this point the ratatouille can sit in the Dutch oven off the heat for several hours, allowing the flavors to meld. Serves 6-8.

 

 


Mediterranean Summer Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes, Figs and Kasseri

Combining thyme and mint in one dish is common throughout Greece and Turkey. Look for the best summer tomatoes you can find, it will make the salad shine. Pomegranate molasses is found in most supermarkets or any middle eastern grocery store.

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1½ lbs heirloom tomatoes, chopped into ½ inch dice (2-3 large)

½ pint (about 8) figs, quartered

1 t fresh thyme leaves, chopped

1 T fresh mint leaves, chopped

¼ C red onion, finely chopped

6 C baby arugula or mixed seasonal greens

1½ C crumbled Kasseri cheese (or Feta)

 

Dressing

Juice of 1 lemon

2 t pomegranate molasses (or good quality balsamic vinegar and 1 T honey)

¼ C olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

 

In a large serving bowl, combine all of the salad ingredients except the cheese. Whisk together the dressing and pour it over the salad. Toss well. Add the cheese and toss lightly. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

 

Note: make it a main course by adding chunks of cooked chicken.

 


Mediterranean Lentil Salad with Black Olives & Mint

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1 C dried French lentils (lePuy) rinsed well and picked over

1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed

2 bay leaves

¼ t dried oregano

1 cinnamon stick or ¼ t. ground cinnamon

 

Combine the lentils, garlic, oregano, bay leaf and cinnamon in a saucepan and cover with water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil, then cover, lower the heat and simmer until the lentils are tender, 20-25 minutes. Drain the lentils well and discard the whole spices.

 

¼ C olive oil

1 T rice vinegar (can substitute apple cider vinegar)

2 T fresh lemon juice, more to taste

1 t lemon zest

½ t ground cumin

Sea salt and pepper to taste

 

In a separate bowl, whisk the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, cumin and salt together. Toss the lentils with this vinaigrette and let stand while preparing vegetables.

 

1 red pepper, diced small

1 small cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced small

¼ C pitted black olives, sliced in half or quarters (Kalamata or Moroccan)

3 T fresh mint, chopped

½ C (2 ounces)feta cheese, crumbled

 

Add the chopped vegetables to the lentils, stir gently. Adjust seasoning for salt and pepper or fresh lemon juice.


Tomato Salad with Corn, Squash and Roasted Onions

This is a go-to summer best. It travels well so it’s a great one to take along to the potluck invitation. It’s also best eaten within 24 hours.

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2 medium sweet onions

5 T olive oil, divided

Sea salt

1 yellow summer squash

2 ears corn, blanched

2-3 scallions, finely chopped

2 C Sun Gold tomatoes (or other small, sweet tomatoes)

Coarsely ground black pepper

2 t sherry vinegar

1 t honey

10 large basil leaves

 

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Peel and slice the onions into 1/2-inch rings, and then arrange on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle the onions with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, sprinkle generously with salt, and smush everything around to coat the onions on both sides. Roast them for about 40 minutes, flipping them over halfway through, until they’re brown and soft. Let the onions cool and then roughly chop them. Set aside.

 

Dice the squash into ¼ inch pieces and put it in a large bowl; you should have about a cup. Strip the kernels from the ears of corn and add them to the bowl with the squash. Finely chop the scallions and add to the bowl. Halve the tomatoes (or quarter them if they’re bigger than a cherry) and add them to the bowl. Add the chopped roasted onions, a tablespoon of olive oil and a few pinches of sea salt and pepper. Stir everything together gently.

 

In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar with the honey; whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Stir about two-thirds of the dressing into the salad, taste, adding more if you like and adjust for salt and pepper. Roughly chop the basil, stir it into the salad and serve. Serves 6.

 


Rice Salad with Corn, Blueberries and Almonds

A tangy and nutty salad complimented by the pop of sweet blueberries. Sure to become a summer favorite. Also a great way to use up leftover rice, quinoa or any whole grains you have on hand.

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1 C brown rice, or a whole-grain rice blend (such as Lundberg)

¼ C white quinoa

½ C red onion, chopped small

2 ears of corn, kernels cut from cob (raw)

½ pint blueberries

¼ C sliced almonds, toasted

¼ C fresh parsley, chopped

 

Dressing

½ garlic clove, minced

Juice of ½ – 1 lemon (about 4 teaspoons)

2 t Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar

1 t sugar

½ – 1 t curry powder

¼ C olive oil

 

Sea salt and pepper, to taste

 

Do ahead: Cook the rice and quinoa according to package directions. Let cool, or if using leftovers from the refrigerator, bring them to room temperature.

 

Make the dressing: Whisk garlic, lemon juice, sugar and curry powder together in a small bowl to combine. Whisking constantly, gradually add the oil until emulsified; season with salt and pepper.

 

In a sauté pan, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the red onion. Add the raw kernels and stir well. Cook covered about 2-3 minutes until kernels are soft but not mushy. Add the blueberries, remove from heat and stir. Add the cooked rice, quinoa and dressing. Mix well, add the almonds and parsley; season with salt and pepper (and more curry powder if you wish). Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 6.


Melon Carpaccio with Lime

Use a culinary mandolin to get beautiful, uniform thin slices. Or sharpen your largest chef’s knife.

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½ C sugar

4 sprigs mint plus small leaves for garnish

½ t thinly sliced fresh red chili (such as jalapeño or Fresno)

½ vanilla bean, split lengthwise

½ C fresh lime juice

½ 5-lb. melon, peeled, halved, seeded, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices

½ t lime zest

 

Bring sugar and 1/4 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add mint sprigs and chili. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; add bean. Remove syrup from heat; cover and let steep for 15 minutes for flavors to infuse. Strain syrup through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl; stir in lime juice. Syrup can be made 1 week ahead. Keep chilled. Arrange melon slices in a glass baking dish. Pour syrup over melon in baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 2 hours to allow flavors to meld. To serve, divide melon slices among plates, over-lapping them decoratively. Garnish with mint leaves and lime zest. Pour remaining syrup in dish into a small pitcher.

 


Tomato, Watermelon and Beet Salad with Caramelized Almonds

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2 cups tomatoes, cubed (or cherry tomatoes, halved)

2 cups watermelon, cubed

3 medium-small beets, boiled, peeled and cubed

1 cups slivered almonds

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons natural sugar, preferably maple sugar or evaporated cane sugar

2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped, for garnish

 

Dressing:

¼ cup white balsamic vinegar (can substitute apple cider vinegar)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt, more to taste

 

To cook the beets: place the unpeeled beets in a medium saucepan, and cover them with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until fully cooked, about 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted indicates they are tender. Drain and cool.

 

Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 350°F. In a small bowl, toss the almonds with the maple syrup and sugar. Spread them evenly on a foil-covered baking sheet and bake until caramelized 10-15 minutes. Set aside to cool. Break up the clumps into small pieces.

 

Remove skins from the beets with a peeler or a knife, cut into cubes roughly the same size as the watermelon and tomatoes, place them in a salad bowl. Cube the tomatoes and watermelon, add them to the beets. Whisk together the vinegar, salt and olive oil, toss into the salad. Serve the salad sprinkled with almonds and garnished with chopped mint. Serves 8.