Thursday, January 8, 2009

It's all Greek to me......or, Ratatouille Salad on a Shoestring

If you happened to peruse the sale ad that came out yesterday, you would have noticed the abundance of Mediterranean-style ingredients on special this week: red peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, ground lamb, feta.....all of these items scream "Greek Food!"

I decided to make a Roasted Ratatouille Salad to serve alongside Strauss Ground Lamb Patties . I picked up a round loaf of Sour Dough Bread (sale price, $2.99) to serve alongside, and whipped up a simple orzo and rice pilaf with ingredients I found in my pantry.

My tab at Sendiks was under $20.00 for dinner this evening -- four bucks for the lamb patties, and $16.00 for the rest of the ingredients -- bringing my dinner cost for five people to around $3.60 per person!

You'll have leftover fresh basil and feta - maybe even some leftover sourdough too. That's all right -- wait 'til yah see what's on deck for tomorrow! We'll be using up those leftovers with a delicious open face BLT, using the Nitrate Free Bacon that's on sale.

Now, here are the recipes; sale ingredients are in GREEN. Have fun making and eating this delicious Greek-inspired dinner on a dime!

Roasted Ratatouille Salad with Feta and Fresh Basil
Serves: 4-6

1 eggplant, trimmed and cut into 1" dice
1 zucchini, trimmed and cut in half from top to bottom, then sliced into 3/4" pieces
1 red bell pepper, trimmed, seeded, and cut into 3/4" pieces
1 medium red onion, cut into 3/4" pieces
Good Quality olive oil (please, in the name of all that is good in the world, use a nice olive oil for this recipe!)
2 roma tomatoes, core trimmed, seeded, and cut into 3/4" pieces
Good Quality balsamic vinegar (I use a nice white balsamic by Alessi)
1/3 c. crumbled feta cheese
2 T. fresh basil, cut into chiffonade *** See tip below for how to execute a perfect chiffonade.

Fire up your oven to 425. Line a cookie sheet with tin foil, for easier clean up. Place all vegetables (except the tomatoes) into a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with olive oil (a few good glugs around the bowl should do it). Season with coarse sea salt and fresh pepper to taste, toss around with a big spoon to coat evenly. Now, dump all of these lovelies onto your cookie sheet, and spread them around. Don't worry if they seem a bit crowded, after a few minutes in the oven you'll see some shrinkage. Nothing to be embarrassed about! A little shrinkage is natural in this instance. HA!

Pop them in the oven for 15 minutes. Take them out, add the tomatoes, and scoot everything around with a big spatula. Put them back in the oven for an additional 20 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to brown a bit. Remove them from the oven and allow to cool for a half an hour or so. Turn your broiler on at this point so you can toast your sourdough bread (see below).

Put the vegetables back in to your original mixing bowl. Drizzle with the vinegar to taste, add in your crumbled feta, and your super fancy basil chiffonade. Toss, and transfer to a pretty serving dish if you are so inclined. Or, leave it where it is and save on dishes to wash.

*** To Chiffonade your basil: (First, say it with me....."SHIFF-oh-nahd"'s French, and fun to say. Drop it into conversation at a cocktail party sometime!)

Wash and dry five or six large basil leaves. Stack them on your cutting board, and roll up tightly. Using a sharp knife, cut the basil roll into thin slices, which will fall into beautiful ribbons when you toss them with your fingers. Whoopee! You just learned a fancy French technique!


I used 5 patties. First, heat up a skillet over a medium flame. Add a bit of oil to coat your pan. Add in the patties and cover loosely (this helps speed up the cooking process as well as saves you from all that yucky splattering). Set your timer for five minutes, during which time you must promise not to scoot them around or disturb them in any manner. Let them do their thing in peace for goodness sakes. After five minutes, gently turn over your patties and repeat the saute process for an additional 5-7 minutes for medium. Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

1/2 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
1/2 c. orzo (a rice shaped pasta)
1/2 c. basmati rice
2 1/2 c. chicken broth (if you don't have broth on hand, just use water and a chicken or veggie bouillion cube instead)
salt and pepper to taste
a sprinkle of Parmesan (optional; if you have it on hand and want to be fancy. I am cheap, but I always love a little bit of fancy!)

Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the butter and olive oil. When the foaming subsides, add in your orzo and rice and stir to coat well -- stir it for a minute or so, or until it gets just the slightest bit toasty. Now add your broth (or water/bouillion mixture) and bring this to a boil. Cover tightly and lower heat to medium low. Cook for 15 minutes WITHOUT PEEKING! Peeking at your rice while it's doing its thing is a definite no-no.

After 15 minutes, check on your rice. Give it a taste, if it's still soupy and/or on the crunchy side, give it a few more minutes. Remove it from heat, adjust your seasonings to taste, and sprinkle with your optional Parmesan.


Cut your bread into however many slices you wish. Put a little bit of olive oil in a small dish, and brush your bread with the oil on both sides. Slide them under your broiler until they are a lovely golden, toasty color. Remove and slice into triangles.

Dinner's done! Plate it up and let's EAT!!

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