Thursday, July 11, 2013

Teapot people

In the 11 days since DP’s been home, we’ve had two sets of houseguests (the first was here for five days, and the second for three), plus Sunday lunch guests in the gap in between. All invited by my husband (who continues to claim that he’s shy and introverted), and all primarily, or originally, professional connections of his. And all, therefore, people to whom I privately refer as ‘teapot people’.

I don’t know if this is a distinction only I make. I’m not a serious tea drinker, but when I do make myself a cup of tea, I make it with a teabag straight in the mug. I do the same for any friends who happen to be hanging around who are in the mood for a cuppa. Breaking out the teapot is serious business, reserved for more formal circumstances: usually people that I don’t yet know very well or, if I do, with whom I still have the kind of relationship where I stand on ceremony, even if we’ve spent a lot of time together. Respected elders, that kind of thing. People in front of whom I sit up straight at the table, and try not to swear.

But I will still feed them Italian peasant food for dinner. Sometimes you just have to let the real you shine through.

Ratatouille minestrone
I think this is really more what my ancestors would call giambotta, but more people are familiar with minestrone, so let’s go with that. I was inspired to make this because it solved two conundrums: 1. what to do with a vat of leftover ratatouille from Sunday lunch; and 2. what to feed houseguests for a late, light dinner that could mostly be prepped ahead of time?

Since this is a creative re-purposing of leftovers, I’m going to give you the sequence of events, rather than a recipe per se.

On Sunday, I chopped:

1 large red bell pepper/capsicum
1 large red onion
5 medium zucchini/courgettes
1 medium eggplant
1 dozen large cherry tomatoes

I tossed the chunks with olive oil, stuck them in the oven, and roasted them for about 45 minutes until they looked ready to eat. When they came out, I tossed them with lemon juice, salt, and black pepper and served them.

This turned out to be way more than enough vegetables for four adults and one child (along with peposo alla notturno, garlic mashed potatoes, and rolls), and at least 50% of it went into the fridge as leftovers. So, on Tuesday, I did the following:

-       chopped up and briefly sautéed 4 slices of Italian salami, 1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, and 2 cloves of garlic in olive oil with 2 anchovies
-       dumped this mixture into my slow cooker
-       deglazed the frying pan with about half a glass of red wine and added that to the slow cooker as well
-       added the leftover ratatouille
-       poured in about half of a bottle of tomato passata and the same amount of water
-       drained, rinsed, and added a can of chick peas

I stirred this all together, clapped the lid on the slow cooker, and left it to stew for about 3 hours on high while we were all out attending to various commitments. Then, just before serving, I seasoned with salt and a generous sprinkle of cayenne pepper, as well as a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

I served it topped with grated pecorino romano cheese and accompanied by pesto cheese crostini – thin slices of bread brushed with oil, topped with pesto and grated parmigiano reggiano cheese, and grilled briefly in the oven.

I’m still eating the leftovers. They get better every day.


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