My birthday is in a couple of weeks, and while not an earth-shattering number, I call it my milestone “eve” year. In preparation, I’m working on my bucket list.
By working, I mean changing priorities. Realistically, I realize some of my somedays will not happen. Not necessarily a negative, it’s just that by crossing off those unrealistic items, I’m making room for new pursuits. The length hasn’t changed, only the emphasis.
Gone are skydiving, hot-air ballooning, mule trekking in the Grand Canyon, seeing Machu Picchu, etc., all replaced with foods I have yet to try.
Even after an 18-month stint in Tidewater, Virginia, courtesy of my girls’ dad’s U.S. Army stint, where three of my top 10 are traditional to that part of the country, I missed out.
So, it all boils down to this: I’m sending my birthday list to the masses and here’s what I want: authentic, reliable recipes for (a) lobster roll; (b) soft-shell crab feast and (c) oyster po’boy.
I know, easy to Google, but there are way too many out there. Plus, I want recipes with pedigrees -- no-fail, family favorites that will allow me to shorten my list and sate my palate.
So please, if you have what I’m looking for, pass it along and I can cross another item off my list.
Now, for the ultimate recipe for a home gardener: one of my favorites, another that I’ve shared before.
Ratatouille is a perfect summer dish. It’s just as good at room temperature as it is hot. Treat it as a main or side dish, also good served over pasta or even rice.
If you have a garden that is doing well, one planted with ratatouille in mind, here’s a recipe that shines.
The internet is rife with ratatouille recipes and it’s an easy dish to prepare. My version includes a switch in ingredients. I prefer using poblanos in place of the more traditional bell peppers. I like their subtle flavor and slight heat.
Also, I don’t char and peel them, just chop, saute and enjoy.
As I said, this recipe is tailor-made for fresh, garden veggies. However, if this is not your year for a great garden, don’t despair, ingredients are readily available in the markets and at Solvang’s great Wednesday Farmers Market.
Although olive oil is traditional, I prefer bacon grease in this recipe. Served over angel hair pasta — spaghettini — topped with freshly grated Parmesan, this dish is definitely delicious.
1 onion, sliced thin
2 garlic cloves, minced
5 Tbsp. oil or bacon grease
1 medium-sized eggplant, cut into ½-inch pieces (about 3 c.)
3 small zucchinis, scrubbed and sliced crosswise
2 medium-sized poblanos, chopped
1½ c. rough chopped fresh tomatoes*
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. dried basil
¼ tsp. fennel seeds
Salt and pepper to taste
Using a large skillet, saute onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons oil over moderately low heat. Stir occasionally, until onion softens and garlic is fragrant but not burned. Add remaining oil and raise heat to moderately high but not smoking. Add eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, for eight to 10 minutes or until the eggplant softened. Stir in zucchini and poblanos and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 to 12 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes more, or until tender. Stir in oregano, basil and fennel seeds. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
NOTE: Ratatouille may be made 1 day in advance, kept covered and chilled and reheated before serving.
* One 14½-oz. can, diced, recipe ready tomatoes may be used if fresh not available.