Ratatouille Afternoon

Yesterday was cold and windy. An anomoly day in our late spring. Unsettling and unpredictable. So what did I do? I cooked! And the birds and the wind kept me company.

Disney and his cartoon rats not withstanding, RATATOUILLE has a long history in the annals of cuisine. The exact recipe for this vegetable melange came from the Joy of Cooking, but, this post will give you, instead, my experiences that afternoon.

Ready? Here we go!

The major ingredients:

all the vegetablesOlive oil, eggplant, peppers (they suggested red, I only had orange, what’s in a color), zucchini, onions.

 

First came the eggplant and zucchini. Eggplant has an unusual texture, punky, light-weight, almost like cork. This allows it to soak up all the good juices of the sauce. This recipe called for peeled. The skin is soft and thick, unlike the skin of a potato, which is thin and crispy. Eggplant is filled with tiny seeds. Good thing they are edible, because impossible to get them out!

egg plant

 

At this point I looked out the window to my bird feeder and spotted a canyon towhee. What fun! Unfortunately, several window panes and porch screens got in the way of what I saw. Look close.

canyon toehee

 

Back to the ratatouille. After you peel the eggplant, chop up the zucchini and saute both in olive oil. The zucchini remains, well, zucchini, but the eggplant becomes translucent, almost like my mother’s old-fashioned watermelon pickles, which she stopped making when watermelon rinds became too thin to make good pickles. Can you tell which is the eggplant and which is the zucchini?

closeup egg plant and zucchini

 

Oh, look! It is a feeder full of lesser goldfinches!

goldfinches

 

Back to the ratatouille. After the zucchini and eggplant have cooked, you dump them out of the saute pan into a holding pot and free the saute pan for the next ingredient, chopped onions. My original picture shows red onions for artistic effect, but these are really too strong, so I substituted sweet Walla Walla onions, just so you know:

onion

 

Oh! Is that a Lady Cardinal? I do think it is:

lady cardinal

 

Now, after the onions have become translucent, add the red peppers–pretend these orange ones are red:

gold peppers

 

It is windy today. When I went out to fill the feeder, the wind chimes greeted me with music, and when I stepped back inside, the kitchen was filled with wonderful smells!

windchimes

 

Where was I? Ah, ratatouille. Along with the onion and red (orange) pepper, you need to add some garlic. The recipe calls for three cloves, but I don’t like a lot of garlic, so I’m only adding two. That’s plenty. You don’t have to peel garlic; just whack it with the side of a knife and the skin separates right off. (This is also a picture of my favorite knife).

garlic

 

While the garlic is cooking….oh! The black-headed grosbeaks are back for the summer. I’ve got about six that visit the feeder, along with the doves and sparrows. This one is the boldest:

grosbeak

 

Then you add some thyme. Did you know there are over 400 varieties of thyme? Creeping thyme, wooly thyme, lemon thyme. I don’t have a lot of time, so I add some common garden-variety thyme from my porch pots:

thyme

 

 

A quail! I have dozens that visit the feeder all day long, and they crowd everyone else (well almost everyone else) out of the feeder:

quail standoff

 

After the thyme add some other spices: bay leave and fresh oregano and basil (these last two I got from my food coop basket) and tomatoes. I didn’t have fresh, so I used canned, diced. Just as good. 🙂

tomato and spices

 

What? Yes! I knew I heard Sir Cardinal out there somewhere as well. Always a joy to see him visit:

sir cardinal

 

The final result, after eggplant and zucchini put back in mix and cooked at low for a while to meld the flavors. It tasted wonderful!

entire mix

 

A great way to spend a windy, wild afternoon in the company of good food and good friends.

 

Borrowed beauty

My neighbors are winter visitors, coming here only when their Chicago jobs permit. they miss so much! Today one of their cactuses was in glorious spring bloom:

orange cactus, spring blossoms, cactus flowers

When I visited my own garden, this bloom surprised me. Yesterday it hadn’t been there, and this morning it was:

purple iris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So I borrowed it from my garden and brought it inside!

We don’t have to “own” beauty to enjoy it. The best beauty is borrowed.

 

Sunlight and shadow

With days longer, the sun comes up earlier and makes wonderful shadows.  But it easy to miss them.

Here is my cat, Foxy, enjoying the sunshine. But notice the shadow bar to the left and her silhouette against the wall:

cat silhouette shadow sunshine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A pillow on the porch couch gives a good imitation of a sunrise, with a nice spray of foliage to the right:

red pillow in the sun and shadow

red pillow sunrise

A windchime is dappled with shadows against the screen:

mobile against screen with shadow

 

Not a catprint! An image of a mobile against the brick wall:

cat print shadow against wall

The screen creates a filter for a spider plant:

spider plant shadow against screen

More sunshadow leaves:

sunshadow prints against the screen

Boston fern against the wall:

shadow-10

Crepe myrtle outside the porch:

shadow-1

Can you spot the windchime now?

black and white shadows

Our eyes instinctively seek color and sharp focus. But the soft beauty of shadow is also waiting for us.