I’m so excited about this post. Not because I turned a dish I loathe into a dish I now adore (if you missed the title – it’s ratatouille), but because it helps to launch my friend’s new project called Kitchen Play. I won’t spill the beans (or the grilled vegetables) what Kitchen Play is all about, but I suggest you head over there and check it out and I’ll even give you another reason to visit at the end of this post – like a giveaway.
Have you ever heard of a progressive party? As a kid, my parents were involved with these quite frequently. Since children were not invited it led me to think up all kinds of weird scenarios for what a progressive party was. For those that don’t know…a progressive party is usually a dinner party that takes place at multiple people’s homes. Each house is assigned a course of the meal. Usually these are done within a neighborhood so that you can simply walk between houses or the houses involved aren’t far from one another. This post is part of a virtual progressive party put on by Kitchen Play and sponsored by Sur La Table. I was given the salad course to make for your virtual six course meal, there’s even wine pairings for each course. Since it’s virtual, you can ‘drink’ as much as you want and you won’t have to worry about embarrassing yourself either.
Being the rebel that I am I decided to make a grilled and stacked ratatouille salad. Like I said before, I don’t really like ratatouille. I don’t know why because I like all of the vegetables that go into the dish (tomatoes, zucchini, onion and peppers), I even like that cute little rat named Ratatouille. Maybe it’s because it’s cooked in tomato sauce and tends to get a bit mushy sometimes. Whatever the reason is, I just created my own version that eliminates the mush and allows you to taste every one of the flavors brought to the dish by each of the vegetables. I decided to make this dish just to prove to myself that I could make a ratatouille that I would like.
Sur La Table sent me a Swissmar V Slicer. What you decide to call this equipment goes down the same road as the tomato tomahto debate – it’s all a matter of semantics. You may call this device a vegetable slicer (the longhand version of v slicer) or a mandolin slicer or just a mandolin. We didn’t just receive this equipment for taking part in this progressive party, this was the equipment that each of us was to use in the creation of our dish (each of us received a different piece of equipment from Sur La Table and had to use that as our prep tool to make our dish). A fun challenge to say the least when you’re assigned the salad portion of the meal.
I decided pretty quickly that I was going to make the grilled ratatouille but I was extremely skeptical that this V Slicer was going to make my prep work any easier. I already have a vegetable slicer that I have a love hate relationship with. I mostly hate it because I can’t change the thickness of the slices and taking it apart for clean up requires the strength of Samson to pull the pieces apart, but it makes large slicing tasks much easier.
This V Slicer was such a dream to use (and I’m not just saying that – I threw out my other one). It’s got an adjustable base so it can be raised up off of the cutting board and an adjustable blade plate so that you can change the thickness of your slices (not to mention a total of 10 different cuts). The adjustable blade allowed me to cut the vegetables thick so that they would hold up on the grill and I could cut them all the same thickness so that they would grill evenly. Craig laughed at me because I was so happy that I could finally do all of the cuts that I wanted to and that I didn’t need his help pulling the slicer apart to clean it. (By the way…remember when I mentioned that giveaway? You have a chance to win one of these V Slicer’s too, just go over to Kitchen Play to see the other courses and to learn more. Oh yeah, and everyone has a chance to win a Le Creuset 3 1/2 Quart Oval Wide French Oven.)
In case you’re not familiar with Sur La Table, they’re a fantastic place to find pretty much everything you need for entertaining from the practical to the whimsical.
If you can’t get your guy to get on board when you want to have a dinner party or even just a few friends over for a small get together why not try doing a progressive party? It takes the responsibility of putting the whole thing together off of everyone’s shoulders – which can be very stressful. You can decide on a theme, just have tapas, maybe a mini pub crawl or go the traditional route and make it a traveling dinner party. By taking the load off of yourself, you’ll both have more fun and he might be inclined to entertain a little more.
Grilled and Stacked Ratatouille Salad
Makes 4 Salads
Makes 1 cup marinade
- 2 Tablespoons Herbs de Provence
- 1/3 Cup Fig Balsamic Vinegar
- 2/3 Cup Olive Oil
- 2 Cloves Garlic (minced)
- Kosher Salt (to taste)
- Fresh Ground Black Pepper (to taste)
In a small bowl add all ingredients and whisk vigorously to combine. Set marinade aside.
Grilled and Stacked Ratatouille Recipe
- 1 Large Sweet Onion Such as Maui, Walla Walla or Texas Sweet (ends removed
- 1 Large Fennel Bulb (stalks and fronds removed)
- 2 Small Italian Eggplant (washed and stems removed)
- 1/2 Pound Zucchini (washed and stem removed) – approximately 1 zucchini
- 1 Large Yellow Bell Pepper (cored, cut into quarters and flattened)
- 1 Large Red Bell Pepper (cored, cut into quarters and flattened)
- 2 Large San Marzano or Roma Tomatoes (cut in half lengthwise)
- 4 Small Basil Sprigs
- 6 Ounce of Goat Cheese
Pour marinade into large rectangular container.
Using the Swissmar V-Power Slicer, set to the lowest setting to get the thickest slices. The V-Slicer should remain on this setting so that all of the vegetables have the same thickness and finish cooking at the same time.
Slice the onion then fennel bulb and put all of the slices into the marinade. Try to keep them from overlapping one another. After a few minutes, turn them over to marinate the other side.
Slice the eggplant and zucchini to form long planks. (You can do this with this V-slicer,)
Remove the onion and fennel from the marinade and lay on a plate. Once these are removed add the eggplant and zucchini to the marinade. After a few minutes, turn them over to marinate the other side.
Remove the eggplant and zucchini from the marinade and add the peppers, flesh side down. No need to turn these over.
Add the tomatoes with the peppers and let them marinate for the same amount of time as the peppers.
(The harder vegetables like onion, fennel and peppers should marinade for at least 5 minutes on each side. The zucchini and eggplant can marinade for 3 – 5 minutes per side.)
Preheat your grill to high heat (500 – 600 degrees Farenheit).
Lay all of the vegetables out on the grill. Make sure that they don’t overlap (so that they cook evenly). The zucchini and eggplant will cook much faster than the onions, fennel and peppers.
How long you grill the vegetables is really up to you. How crunchy or soft do you like them? Do you want any char on the vegetables? Don’t forget to turn the vegetables over to grill both sides. I cooked the onions a little less than the fennel (the fennel was cooked for 7-10 minutes per side). The zucchini and eggplant was only cooked for 3 minutes per side. The tomatoes may lose their skins while on the grill, when you turn them over, but they will still hold their shape.
As you remove the vegetables, put them on a large plate. It’s okay if they overlap a bit.
Drag the basil sprigs through the marinade then drop them on the grill for just a minute or two (just enough for them to wilt) and remove them from the heat.
Begin stacking the ratatouille salad on the plates. Start by criss crossing a piece of the red and yellow grilled peppers. Next layer on the grilled eggplant in a narrow X. Stack on a slice of the grilled onions. Again, create a narrow X shape with 2 pieces of the grilled zucchini. Lay one of the grilled tomato halves on top of the zucchini layer. Top the stack with the grilled basil.
Divide the goat cheese into 4 even pieces and roll into balls.
Place one ball of goat cheese next to each ratatouille stack.
Using a large spoon, drizzle some of the marinade over each stack and goat cheese.