Gathered some of the last of summer veggies from the garden this week and realized I had the makings for ratatouille. I love roasted vegetables, especially tomatoes; it really brings out their sweetness. While the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant were roasting I sautéed the other vegetables and then combined everything together with some fresh herbs for the best ratatouille, if I do say so😀. But it got even better when I served it over grits with the freshly ground (using a waterwheel powered grinder!) organic corn I bought in North Carolina. Sort of a middle eastern-southern US fusion dish that I couldn’t stop eating … serious comfort food!
I discovered the West Point Mill on the Eno while exploring North Carolina where my daughter now lives. The mill sits on the Eno River near Durham and has a huge water wheel used to power the grinding of corn (for organic corn meal and grits) and red winter wheat for their organic flour. They sell their flour and grits and corn meal at the mill and I can tell you it doesn’t get any fresher than that unless you are growing and grinding your own flour!
I happened to show up just as they were grinding the corn so got to watch the process (very noisy but so fascinating) and buy a few bags of just milled grits. My daughter, Audrianna and I made grits that night (both of us “grit novices” from California) and they were delicious! I brought a bag back, stored it in the freezer and used it in this recipe. You could also use polenta (very similiar to grits) but then you miss the southern twist.
OK, enough said now here’s the recipe for both the ratatouille and the grits.
“ROASTED RATATOUILLE with GRITS” (makes a large pot, about 8 servings)
Ingredients for Ratatouille:
- 1 fresh eggplant
- 1 lb fresh tomatoes
- 2 padron peppers (can sub any hot pepper)
- 2 medium sweet peppers ( green or red)
- 1 onion
- 4 -6 cloves garlic
- 1 bunch fresh chard, washed
- 8 oz. mushrooms
- 1 – 2 medium zucchini
- 1 bunch fresh basil
- fresh or dried thyme and oregano
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- salt & pepper
- 3 TBSP olive oil
Directions for Ratatouille:
- Cut tomatoes into 1/2 ” chunks saving any juices and put into a large bowl.
- Cut sweet peppers and eggplant into 1/2″ chunks & add to tomatoes.
- Dice onion, 2 cloves garlic and hot peppers & add to vegetables in bowl.
- Drizzle veggies with 2 TBSP olive oil and spread onto a roasting pan. Roast at 400 degrees for about 1/2 hour.
- While mixture is roasting, add 1 TBSP olive oil to Dutch oven & when heated add onions, then rest of garlic & saute on low heat.
- Slice the mushrooms, zucchini & chop the chard leaves & separate from their ribs. Slice ribs into 1/4 ” pieces & add to saute. Let cook for about 10 minutes until vegetables are soft.
- Add sliced chard leaves & mix them in well. Continue to saute until the leaves start to wilt. Turn off heat.
- When roasted veggies are beginning to brown but there is still lots of juice from the tomatoes, remove from oven & carefully pour it all into the Dutch oven, making sure to get all the yummy liquid.
- Start heating the stock for your grits now (recipe below).
- Turn heat back on the ratatouille very low , add herbs and spices and let it all simmer for about 10 minutes while you cook the grits.
Ingredients & Directions for Grits: (This makes about 1 1/2 cups cooked grits. You can double the recipe so you can have extra grits for later!)
- 2 cups vegetable stock ( add a bouillon cube to water if you don’t have stock)
- 1/2 cup plus 1 TBSP grits ( fresh are best, of course)
- 1 TBSP vegan butter ( or regular butter)
- Optional: 1/4 cup Parmesan, cheddar or goat cheese. Heat stock to a boil, add grits & turn heat down to low. Stir every few minutes to keep them from sticking or burning. They take 25-35 minutes to cook. I like them really creamy so I cooked them longer than recipe which says 20 minutes. When you like their consistency, add the butter, a little salt to taste & cheese, if using.
Put about 1/2 cup grits in a large bowl and top with a few ladles of the hot ratatouille, garnish with freshly sliced basil & a sprinkle of Parmesan or vegan cheese. Serve immediately & feel free to have a second bowl😋. This is comfort food at its’ finest!