arguably the most influential chef in the country, recently wrote about
Ratatouille in the Los Angeles Times.He
wasn’t talking about the 2008 movie of the same name, a fanciful food fable
that won the Oscar that year for best Animated Feature.He was referring to that summer classic that
incorporates so many fresh vegetables your kitchen looks like you’ve robbed a
farm stand.What Chef Keller pointed out
was how adaptable the dish is.It starts
out as a vegetable stew that’s an incomparable side dish or a vegetarian meal
all by itself.
It is quite labor intensive so there’s no point in
making a tiny batch of the stuff. Instead Chef Keller encourages making a
recipe that yields 16 1 cup portions.
This, he points out, gives you the basis for any number of pasta sauces,
a perfect soup base-- even a sandwich spread.
The one thing the dish requires, besides a cornucopia of fresh produce,
is time. The start to finish on the dish
is 4 hours. I’d say that actually errs
on the short side. But a lot of that
time is spent while the ratatouille sits in the oven reducing the liquid away
until you’re left with beautifully tender vegetables in a thick, silken
sauce. So you can sit back and stir
occasionally. All that time is a perfect
opportunity to re-view “Ratatouille”, the movie. If you’re uninitiated to its charms, it’s the
story of an ambitious young chef and, yes, a Rat who cook away in a Parisian
restaurant. And what foodie doesn’t want
to revisit Paris?
The Silver Palate was an iconic and tiny little take-out shop
that opened on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in 1979. It was the brainchild of two women: Julie
Russo and Sheila Lukins. Two years
earlier, Lukins, divorced from her husband and mother to two small children,
had set up a catering operation in her apartment. She lived in New York’s famed “Dakota”, home to Lauren Bacall, Rex Reed and most
famously and tragically, John Lennon who was assassinated outside its front
door in 1980.
If you’ve read much Chewing the Fat lately, you may remember
David Falkowski, our local “Mushroom Man”, who supplies us with wonderful fresh
and dried mushrooms at our local Farmer’s Markets. (You can read about these markets and David by on the most recent New York Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/18/nyregion/18dineli.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Sag%20Harbor%20Farmer's%20Market&st=cse). A couple of weeks ago,
while we were at the Saturday morning market in Sag Harbor, we were visiting
David’s table and there we saw some tiny little eggplants about 2 or 3 inches
long. David told us they were Fairy Tale
eggplants. He said customers were coming
back weekly to buy more so he knew he had a hit on his hands. The next thing we knew, there they were in
New York magazine’s August 2nd Food section being extolled for their lack of both major
seeds and any bitterness associated with their larger cousins. We hustled home with ours and decided to make
them the basis for the best ratatouille we’d ever tasted.