It’s 11:30 on Tuesday morning. I am meeting Summer at the neighbourhood Migros (grocery store) across from the farmers’ market for 11:45, and I am supposed to have the marketing done. The market closes at noon and, in Switzerland, that means 12:00 sharp. I’m late leaving because I’m drinking enough coffee to neutralize the jet lag, maybe, and I’m fidgeting about with her balcony garden. Her garden is in pots, providing flowers, a variety of fresh herbs, chives, green garlic and, very soon, tiny heirloom tomatoes. It’s the little garden that I call The Bees’ Garden, which supports the critically-important bees. It’s also on the right side in the David and Goliath battle of tiny harmless wasps versus the ash borer beetle.
Summer and I do the marketing together, filling her shopping bags with helda beans (aka flat beans), broad beans, summer squash, eggplant, meaty heirloom tomatoes, sweet peppers, new potatoes, a melon, leeks, greens, and free-range eggs. I’m feeling the unique kind of joy that comes with holding a wealth of farm-fresh produce. I can hear the creative gears in my head picking up the pace as we hit the Migros for a few routine grocery items. We grab and go. She’s heading back to the office and I’m back to the lab for the relentless culinary experimenting.
Summer is craving ratatouille, and so the eggplant, squash, peppers, onion and garlic will be cleaned, cut and roasted with some cold-pressed olive oil and sea salt. The beans are calling to me, and those will be sautéed in olive oil with thyme, oregano, and lemon peel julienne, and then finished with a splash of Martini Bianco. Below are the methods for preparing the ratatouille (referred to with affection as “the rat” by the Chez Eric crew) and the green beans.
- Equal parts eggplant, summer squash (there are several varieties) and sweet peppers
- Onion and garlic according to preference
- 2 to 6 large meaty tomatoes such as field, beefsteak, coeur de boeuf (according to the amount of other vegetable)
- Fresh thyme, oregano or marjoram (or all)
- Basil leaves or smoked paprika for the finish (optional)
- Enough olive oil to anoint the vegetables before cooking, reserving a few drops or so at the end to finish
- Half a glass or so of red wine (or a little splash of red wine vinegar)
- Sea salt and freshly-ground pepper
- Set your oven to 375 F.
- Roast pieces of eggplant and squash together until tender and caramelized (separate the two on the cooking tray, because your eggplant may need to be taken out before the squash).
- Roast a whole head of garlic and coarsely chop onions. The onions, peppers and garlic typically take about the same amount of time.
- While the vegetables are roasting, sauté the tomato pieces in olive oil until tender.
- Add the fresh herbs, roasted garlic, wine or vinegar to sautéed tomatoes.
- Season with salt, pepper and the optional smoked paprika.
- Remove from the heat and pour into a large mixing bowl.
- Toss in the roasted vegetables and finish with a little olive oil.
- Adjust the seasoning, add the basil leaves and serve.
*Use beans you like that are available.
- I used 1.5 litres of helda beans and 3/4 of a litre of broad beans
- Leeks (according to preference)
- Lemon peel (use the peel from 1 lemon per 1.5 litres of beans
- Fresh thyme and sage
- Olive oil
- A splash of Martini Bianco
- Sea salt and pepper
- Starting at medium heat, sauté the beans in olive oil, with a sprinkle of salt, using a large sauté pan or braising pot (start with the tougher bean if you use more than one variety).
- Add the lemon peel, herbs and Martini Bianco.
- Reduce heat to low and cover; this allows the beans to steam until they have almost reached the desired tenderness.
- Add the julienne of leeks and leave the pan uncovered.
- Turn heat to medium-high and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes.
I also roasted new potatoes and cooked du puy lentils with leeks, thyme and a little beer that we didn’t find so appealing in the glass. The beer was greatly improved with the addition of the other ingredients.
And after all that….A farm- and garden-to-table feast at dinner, with options for the rest of the week.
|Susan is a culinary arts instructor, Cordon Bleu- trained chef, and back-to-the-dirt food activist in the Ottawa/Outaouais region, currently on a short sabbatical in Switzerland, where she is following another of her passions, painting.|
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