By Nancy Olah
Finding a new way to make a favorite dish is always fun.
That’s one of the reasons I continue to subscribe to both the print and online editions of Cook’s Illustrated and Cook’s Country, even though a lot of their recipes contain meat and chicken. I love the fact that their super smart cooks do a whole lot of testing for each recipe – and then I can learn from them and adapt what works best for my style of cooking!
Take Ratatouille for example. I adore the flavor combination of eggplant, zucchini, onions, garlic, peppers, and tomatoes. Although I have tried (and published) many different recipes for this French bistro favorite, it is always a joy to find a new way to simplify preparation and improve taste. Since I often resort to the slow cooker for ease of preparation, some of the veggies in my slow cooker ratatouille can get a bit overcooked, and lose their unique shape, taste, and texture.
So, the idea of using the oven to make their cleverly named “Walkaway Ratatouille” was intriguing (even though the stove top was involved for the first twenty minutes of cooking).
Although I appreciate the complex scientific reasons Cook’s Illustrated gives for “why” they recommend doing things a certain way, some of their practices just don’t make sense to me. For example, why on earth should I peel perfectly good organic eggplant and tomatoes? I also question the idea of mashing up the cooked eggplant, onion, and tomato mixture before adding the other veggies. If the whole point of ratatouille is that each of the vegetables should retain its own unique character, mashing them up to create “a silky sauce” totally defeats that purpose!
Although I have used Cook’s Illustrated’s basic concept of oven cooking the ratatouille, I did a fair amount of tinkering to the original recipe. I think the amount of olive oil and salt they use is excessive, and I personally like the taste of both a red onion and a Vidalia onion, rather than just “two onions.” I can’t get decent plum tomatoes in the winter, but organic cherry or grape tomatoes are a good substitute.
I also wanted to boost the protein in my ratatouille by adding Tofurky Spinach Pesto Artisan Sausage in the last three minutes. With 29 grams of plant-based protein per sausage, just two of those yummy sausages sliced up into my ratatouille added 58 grams of protein. Although you certainly could use the entire package (4 sausages) in order to boost the protein, I thought that would overwhelm the ratatouille, which I wanted to be the star of the meal.
And to carry the pesto theme forward, I made DeLallo Organic Whole Wheat Orzo combined with a jar of my homemade organic pesto from the freezer, frozen organic sweet green peas, and toasted pignoli.
The DeLallo Orzo is longer and a tad thicker than all of the other brands of orzo that I’ve tried. I also love its hearty, healthy taste – but amazingly, it still has the texture of traditional semolina orzo which pleased my white pasta loving carnivores. And keep in mind that a 3 ounce portion will give you 9 grams of whole grain protein, as well as 9 grams of fiber.
This was my first experience with DeLallo Organic Whole Wheat Pasta but it definitely won’t be my last!
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium organic red onion, chopped
- 1 medium organic Vidalia or another type of sweet onion, chopped
- 6 large cloves organic garlic, peeled and smashed with the flat blade of a chef's knife
- Several grinds of Salt Free Organic Mediterranean Herbs (The Spice Hunter)
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Several hearty shakes of red pepper flakes (or more, to taste)
- 1 Bay leaf
- 1 medium organic eggplant, cut into one-inch pieces
- 1 pint organic cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
- 2 small organic zucchini, halved and cut into one-inch pieces
- 1 medium organic red pepper, seeded and cut into one-inch pieces
- 1 medium organic green, orange, or yellow pepper, seeded and cut into one-inch pieces
- 2 Tofurky Spinach Pesto Artisan Sausages, sliced
- 3 tablespoons chopped organic flat leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
- Heat the olive oil in a large stainless steel or cast iron Dutch oven and sauté the onions over medium heat for about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, a little sea salt and pepper, and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Add the Mediterranean Herb blend, the red pepper flakes and Bay leaf and sauté for another minute or so.
- Increase the heat slightly, and add the eggplant. Sauté for about 8 minutes and then add the tomatoes, sautéing for another 2-3 minutes.
- Transfer the uncovered Dutch oven or pot to the oven and bake for about 45 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, and add the cut up zucchini and peppers, along with a little bit of sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Put it back in the oven and cook (uncovered) for another 25 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the oven, cover, and put it on the stovetop. Let it rest for about 15 minutes. Remove the Bay leaf. Stir in the sliced spinach pesto sausage, turn the flame to low, and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the parsley, sherry vinegar, and adjust the seasoning with a bit more sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Serve with whole wheat orzo with pesto, peas, and pignoli!
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