The food co-op is packed with food ... but whattaya do when the gang doesn't all show up to get their orders? Stephen Salaff laid down a leftover recipe idea in a recent piece for the San Francisco Good Times.
One Saturday afternoon in March, I met a bunch of people standing around a parked station wagon. It seems that the wagon had returned to Berkeley from early morning shopping at the San Francisco Farmer's Market with a load of vegetables. The people were part of the Food Conspiracy, which provides food to neighborhood groups at wholesale prices. One of them said that some co-conspirators had failed to collect their food at the assigned hour, and so it was decided to give away all the extras right out of the station wagon. This illustrates one of the problems of such a food distribution system — the members have to get to the distribution point on time.
I helped myself to the assorted vegetables, picking three medium-sized onions, eggplants, tomatoes, zucchini, and green peppers — fifteen in all. The dish I cooked with them is a vegetable stew from the French Provence region, called a ratatouille. It is, in one or another variant, a natural and colorful way to utilize a windfall of fresh vegetables.
To make a ratatouille for six to eight persons, you will need, in addition to the above vegetables, two cloves of chopped garlic, at least one-half cup of olive oil, and one or more tomato spices, like basil and chopped parsley.
Here's what you do with each vegetable:
Onions: slice thinly
Green Peppers: halve, remove core and seeds, and slice into thin strips (julienne slices)
Eggplant: cut into one quarter inch rounds, and then into one inch squares; no need to peel
Zucchini: peel and slice into half-inch pieces
Heat one-half cup of olive oil in a wide, heavy pan. Saute the onions and chopped garlic until the onions are soft but not brown, and then add the green peppers, eggplants, and zucchini. Pour a little more olive oil over the top, cover, and cook gently for 40 minutes. (Feel free to vary the proportions of the vegetables used, according to what you have on hand. Bear in mind that eggplants soak up a lot of olive oil; if you have fewer eggplants you may cut down on the oil). Add the quartered tomatoes and your spices. Cook 20 minutes more, or until the vegetables are quite soft but not mushy. The texture should be that of a thick, coarse puree. Uncover and continue to heat 5 to 10 minutes to reduce the amount of liquid remaining in the pan.
In a good ratatouille, each of the vegetables is distinguishable by sight and taste, so proceed gently without overcooking. This dish can be served hot or cold, and if you add a little more oil, it takes kindly to reheating.