Cook: MM Slow-Cooked Ratatouille Over Goat Cheese Polenta

This in not an April Fool’s joke, I love this variation of ratatouille from Dina Cheney at epicurious.com! The goat cheese polenta adds some depth of flavor that is not otherwise apparent, but if you’re not a fan of goat cheese then feel free to substitute with whatever cheese you love. I think Gruyere would be a lovely complement to the flavor profile. Bon appetit!

Slow-Cooked Ratatouille Over Goat Cheese Polenta 

Ingredients:

For the Ratatouille

  • Cooking spray
  • 2 large eggplants, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 10 1/2 cups)
  • 3 medium zucchini or yellow summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 6 1/2 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 small to medium red onions, halved and thinly sliced (about 3 1/2 cups)
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 10 grinds black pepper
  • 1/2 cup packed freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1/4 pound)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves

For the Polenta

  • 6 cups low-sodium vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1 1/2 cups polenta or coarse-ground cornmeal (not instant)
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 4 ounces fresh goat cheese (about 1/2 cup)
  • 10 grinds black pepper

Preparation:

Make the Ratatouille

1. Grease the slow cooker with cooking spray.

2. Place the eggplant and zucchini in a large colander and toss well with 3 tablespoons of the salt; let sit for about 45 minutes. Rinse well to remove the salt, then dry well, gently squeezing out excess water with a kitchen towel. Add to the greased slow cooker. Heat 2 tablespoons of the butter in a 10-inch, heavy sauté pan over medium-high heat. When warm, add the onions, bell peppers, and garlic and sauté until the vegetables are softened, about 8 minutes. Transfer to the slow cooker. Reduce the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter. As soon as it melts, add the flour and tomato paste, and cook until the mixture is thickened and the flour disappears, about 1 minute. Increase the heat to medium high and add the tomatoes with their juices, thyme, and pepper. Cook, crushing the tomatoes a bit with a wooden spoon, until thickened and smooth, about 6 minutes. Mix with the vegetables in the slow cooker. Cover the slow cooker and cook on low until the vegetables are tender, 4 to 5 hours. Uncover and remove from the heat; immediately stir in the cheese and basil.

Make the polenta
While the ratatouille is cooking, add the stock and salt to a medium, heavy saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring every 3 minutes, until creamy and thickened, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, cheese, and pepper.

To serve
Ladle polenta into individual bowls, spoon ratatouille on top, and serve immediately.

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Cook: MM Macaroni Gratin

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Nothing is more comforting on a cold winter’s night than a plate of steaming Macaroni and Cheese (or in this case Macaroni Gratin)! Pair with a crunchy salad and you’ve got yourself the makings of a perfect feel good meal! Bon appetit!

Macaroni Gratin

3 quarts whole milk

4 garlic cloves, lightly crushed

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

Fine sea salt

Freshly ground white pepper

Freshly grated nutmeg

3/4 cup heavy cream

3/4 pound ridged penne pasta

2 trays of ice cubes

1 cup freshly grated imported Gruyère cheese (3 1/2 ounces)

2 tablespoons minced chives

  1. In a large saucepan, combine the milk and garlic. Warm the milk over high heat until bubbles appear around the edge. Remove from the heat, cover and let steep for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the garlic. Measure out 1 cup of milk and reserve; set aside the rest.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat. Whisk in the flour and cook, stirring constantly, without browning, for 1 minute. Remove the saucepan from the heat and gradually whisk in the reserved 1 cup of milk, stirring constantly, until the sauce is completely smooth. Season with a large pinch of salt and generous gratings of white pepper and nutmeg. Return the pan to low heat and cook the sauce, whisking constantly, until it’s thick, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, let cool slightly and stir in the heavy cream. Season with salt.
  3. Preheat the oven to 500°. Add 1/4 cup of salt to the remaining milk and bring back to a simmer. Add the pasta and cook, stirring, over moderately high heat so the milk is just simmering, until al dente, about 10 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the ice cubes to stop the cooking. Once all of the ice cubes have melted, drain the pasta in a colander and transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Add the white sauce to the pasta and toss to coat. Transfer the mixture to a buttered 9-by13-inch gratin dish. Sprinkle the cheese all over the top and bake for about 10 minutes, or until bubbling around the edges. Turn on the broiler and broil, rotating the dish, until the cheese is golden, 2 to 3 minutes. Let the gratin stand for 5 minutes, then season generously with white pepper, garnish with the chives and serve.

Cook: MM Eggplant Parmesan with Crisp Bread Crumb Topping

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Nothing warms you up on a cold winter’s day than a meal hot out of the oven and with this week’s Meatless Monday recipe, Eggplant Parmesan with Crisp Bread Crumb Topping, you can leave the oven door open for a bit after baking to warm your kitchen, too! I love the crunchy bread crumb topping! How delightful would this be with a nice warm spincah salad, some crusty bread and a bottle of red wine?!? Bon Appetit!

Eggplant Parmesan with Crisp Bread Crumb Topping

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus about 2 cups for frying

1 onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

Two 28-ounce cans whole, peeled Italian tomatoes, drained

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

8 small eggplants (1/2 pound each), cut lengthwise 1/2 inch thick

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped basil

1 pound lightly salted fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced and torn into small pieces

1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

3 tablespoons dry bread crumbs

  1. In a large skillet, heat the 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until tender, about 5 minutes. Using your hands, crush the whole tomatoes into the skillet. Bring to a simmer and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is very thick, about 25 minutes. Transfer the tomato sauce to a food processor and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Meanwhile, in a very large skillet, heat 1/4 inch of olive oil. Season the eggplant slices with salt and pepper. Working in several batches, cook the eggplant over moderately high heat, turning once, until golden on both sides, about 8 minutes per batch; add more olive oil to the skillet between batches. Drain the eggplant slices on paper towels.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400°. Spread 1 cup of the tomato sauce in a 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish. Arrange one-third of the fried eggplant slices in the baking dish and sprinkle all over with 1 tablespoon of the chopped basil. Top with one-third of the torn mozzarella and sprinkle with 1/3 cup of the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano. Repeat this layering twice. Sprinkle the bread crumbs all over the top of the eggplant Parmesan. Bake in the upper third of the oven for about 45 minutes, until the top of the eggplant Parmesan is golden and the tomato sauce is bubbling. Let stand for 15 minutes before serving.
Make Ahead: The assembled eggplant Parmesan can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 1 day. Bring the eggplant Parmesan to room temperature before baking. Notes This dish is extremely versatile. The eggplant can be sliced lengthwise or crosswise before it’s fried. In addition, the eggplant Parmesan can be baked in a glass or ceramic baking dish that is round, oval, rectangular or square. Serve With Green salad and crusty Italian or peasant bread.