For the last Special Dish for the Week of 2013, I prepare an authentic version of this favourite dish in one of my favourite places on Earth—Provence in the South of France:
Ratatouille Provençale de Nice
When in Provence, where I currently am over New Year’s for my Book Writing Retreat 2013-2014 Nice, I take advantage of the local produce that my retreat companion picks up from the daily market while I make my way in from the airport, and make the colourful, nutritious comforting ratatouille.
Following the recipe now well-ingrained in my mind, I peel, grate, dice and slice some garlic, ginger, onion and red pepper. These I sautée, till soft, then browned, in generous amounts of cold pressed virgin olive oil. I add some chopped cilantro stems to enrich the base flavour. Plus some slices of red Thai chili pepper for a little added spice. Next is coarse dicing of zucchini—or courgette—and eggplant—or aubergine—which I add to the pot to make tender and juicy. Then, I coarsely chop some tomatoes, adding them towards the end, along with some chickpeas. I add more chopped cilantro, fresh basil, herbes de Provence, thyme, pepper, and some salt—from my dried spice travel stash! I let all the veggies cook—covered, to soften, releasing and intermingling their plentiful juices—for about 1/2 hr.
For protein and carbohydrate source, I separately cook some jasmine brown rice with a dash of cinnamon. I serve the ratatouille next to the cinnamon rice, for a change of pace rather than on top, and enjoy with a glass of rosé.
For dessert, I enjoy macarons for the first time in all my travels in France (a little beat up by the time I get them to the apartment, but still tasty), with a side of baklava morsels left over from my journey from Vancouver.
Ratatouille Provençale de Vancouver
Back in Vancouver, for the first Special Dish for the Week of 2014, and in an attempt to keep fresh the memory of my visit to Nice, I make another Ratatouille Provençale.
This time, the cinnamon jasmine brown rice also includes the sweetly moist and delicious raisins. To the base ratatouille, I add some turmeric and black pepper for some variety and more anti-inflammatory action.
The star of this meal, however, is the wine glass from which I sip my red wine. It comes from Europe—Hamburg, to be more precise—by mail, no less! A gift for Christmas from my good Hamburgerin friend. It is customised specifically for me, and intended to accompany my Special Dishes for the Week. It has engraved on it a memory from our South East Asia travels: Santé, machine à manger! Yes, “the eating machine”—c’est moi, bien sûr ! How thoughtful—and how incredible that it made it all the way from Europe in the post, in tact!