Kasey Wilson: summer fun with a French accent

Kasey Wilson offers a pair of recipes from À Table: Recipes for French Cooking and Eating by Rebekah Peppler

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Foodies look forward to the summer bounty of vegetables, and those of us who are food writers also look forward to the summer harvest of cookbooks.

One of the most useful cookbooks I’ve come across this season is À Table: Recipes for French Cooking and Eating by Rebekah Peppler. Originally from Wisconsin, Peppler completed his journalism degree with a degree program at the French Culinary Institute in New York, then built a career as a food stylist, photographer and writer in Brooklyn, Los Angeles and over the past three years, Paris.

I was especially won over by his ratatouille recipe and his even simpler Summer Tian recipe, a similar combination of finely sliced ​​vegetables cooked to perfection.

“A summer traveling with an ex-girlfriend, several years ago, a few nights of ratatouille in high season turned into a month of ratatouille, crossing two European countries. These humble stews ranged from traditional, eating breakfast with an egg, throwing everything in the blender and calling it a dip, ”says Peppler.

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Both dishes can be served hot or cold, alone as a side dish, or simply spread over pieces of torn crusty bread.

Ribbon-shaped rows of zucchini, eggplant and sliced ​​tomatoes make Rebekah Peppler's Summer Tian a visual and a culinary treat.
Ribbon-shaped rows of zucchini, eggplant and sliced ​​tomatoes make Rebekah Peppler’s Summer Tian a visual and a culinary treat. Photo by Joann Pai /PNG

Summer tian

The French word “tian” refers to both a shallow terracotta baking dish and the alternating rows of finely sliced ​​vegetables traditionally cooked in it.

8 c. (120 mL) extra virgin olive oil, divided

2 large yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced

6 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

1 C. (15 mL) finely chopped fresh thyme leaves

Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper

2 large zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch rounds

2 small eggplants, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch slices

3 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch slices

Preheat the oven to 350 ° F.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook onions, stirring often, until starting to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring, for another 5 minutes. Transfer to a 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33 cm) baking dish, spreading evenly.

Drizzle the cooked vegetables with 2 tablespoons of oil. Arrange the zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes in alternate rows, with the slices standing on one end, overlapping them and tightening the rows tightly. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil.

Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake in the oven until the vegetables start to soften, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove foil, increase oven temperature to 400 ° F and bake until vegetables are very tender, 20 to 30 minutes more.

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Remove the pan from the oven and baste the vegetables with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Serve hot or at room temperature.

For 4 to 6 people

Ratatouille

“My ex-girlfriend always made a browner, fatter, and spicier ratatouille than me, which I secretly loved but pretended to like, so all credit is due: here is her recipe. ate it for a month straight; it’s really good. ” – Rebecca Peppler

2 small eggplants, cut into ½-inch (12 mm) dice

2 tbsp. (10 mL) fine sea salt, more if needed

12 tablespoons (180 ml) extra virgin olive oil

2 medium zucchini, cut into ½-inch (12 mm) dice

Freshly ground black pepper

1 large yellow onion, cut into ½-inch (12 mm) dice

1 bunch of fresh basil tied in a bouquet with kitchen twine, plus 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 medium red bell peppers, seeded and cut into ½ inch dice

4 medium plum tomatoes, cut into ½ inch (12 mm) dice or 14 ounce (400 g) can plum tomatoes

Pinch of red pepper flakes

Toss the diced eggplant with the salt. Transfer to a colander and let drain for about 20 minutes. Use paper towels to dry the eggplants.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add 4 tablespoons of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the eggplant and cook, stirring frequently, until the eggplant is golden on all sides and tender, about 20 minutes. Transfer the eggplant to a large bowl.

In the same pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Add the zucchini and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until zucchini are golden and tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the eggplant.

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Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add the onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the bunch of basil and garlic and season with salt. Add the peppers and cook, stirring often, until the peppers are very tender and the onion is golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the zucchini and eggplant.

Add 2 tablespoons of oil, tomatoes and red pepper flakes to the pan. Season with salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid evaporates, about 15 minutes. Return the remaining vegetables to the pan and continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly. Finish by drizzling with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

For 6 persons


Cooking Tip: Setting Up

The key to a successful ratatouille is setting, a French culinary term that refers to the organization of all the necessary ingredients in bowls before lighting the burners.


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About Guillermo Russell

Guillermo Russell

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