Recipe: Ratatouille with Penne

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Ratatouille, the classic vegetable stew of Provence, is featured in all the small restaurants along its coast. Vegetables for ratatouille are usually prepared separately and not combined until the end. Here everything is cooked together. I don't bother to peel the eggplant, but do so if you wish. I recommend Japanese eggplants for this dish. Long and thin, they are firmer and have fewer seeds than regular eggplants.

Ratatouille is generally served on its own, at room temperature, sprinkled with the best-quality olive oil, olives, and parsley. I use it as a pasta sauce, tossing it with cooked penne before garnishing it with olive oil, olives, grated Parmesan cheese, and parsley or basil.

4 servings

Ratatouille

Penne

For the ratatouille: Put all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Mix well, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook gently for 30 minutes. If the mixture still has a lot of liquid, reduce it by boiling, uncovered, for 3 to 4 minutes. Cool to room temperature. You will have about 5 cups.

For the penne: Bring 3 quarts salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add the penne and stir it in well, so it doesn't stick together. Return to a boil, stirring occasionally, and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or until it is cooked to your liking.

Meanwhile, combine the ratatouille, 3/4 teaspoon salt, pepper, and olive oil in a large glass bowl and microwave for a couple of minutes to warm it through. Drain the pasta and add it to the ratatouille in the bowl. Sprinkle on the olives and the cheese and mix well. Divide among four hot plates and garnish with the basil and grated cheese. Pass more at the table.

Note: To serve the ratatouille on its own, spoon it into a serving dish, drizzle on a little extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with 1/4 cup pitted oil-cured black olives or kalamata olives, and garnish with 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil or parsley.

Episode 225: Vegetable Fête

Jacques reminisces about his childhood and celebrates the bounty of the season. He cooks up a batch of ratatouille that can be served two ways. While it's perfectly delicious on its own, Jacques serves it with pasta in Ratatouille with Penne. Seafood stars in Shrimp with Cabbage and Red Caviar, and delicate peaches end the show in Jacques' classically prepared Peach Melba.

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Minute Recipe: Mini Croques-Monsieur

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For these tidbits, I use good Jarlsberg, Gruyère, Beaufort, or Comté cheese and the best boiled ham that I can find at my market. The sandwiches can be prepared ahead and baked as needed for a large party or wedding reception.

Arrange 2 thick slices white bread next to one another on the counter and cover 1 slice completely with slices of cheese. Add 1 slice ham to cover the cheese and then add another layer of cheese and ham before finishing with the other slice of bread. Spread about 1 teaspoon butter on each side of the sandwich and arrange it on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven for about 12 minutes, or until the croque-monsieur is brown and crusty on both sides. Cool for about 5 minutes. Trim off the crust if you like and cut into 6 small rectangles. Serve hot with toothpicks.

Makes 6 mini sandwiches