Ratatouille and Crepes for hungry boys

More than two weeks ago now I found myself serving dinner to four hungry skinny boys (or I guess I should call them men) on a rainy and cold Friday night. I had spent the evening cooking up a huge mound of Ratatouille with the help of my friend Peter, and I was certain that we would have way too much food for the five of us, but as it turned out we had just the right amount. We rolled the crepes around the filling almost like burritos and devoured them; oh how delicious this Ratatouille was! Individually roasting the vegetables ensures that they don’t get soggy and greasy and mushy… each vegetable maintains it purity of unique flavor within the finished stew, and the extra helping of fresh herbs thrown in at the last minute transports you back to summertime. The recipe is adapted loosely from the Cook’s Illustrated The Best Soups & Stews   and the crepe recipe is directly from Gluten Free Baking Classics.

Ratatouille
serves six, or four hungry men and one not quiet as hungry lady

2 medium globe eggplants, peeled and cut into one inch cubes
salt
4 zucchini, peeled and cut into one inch cubes
¼ cup olive oil
1 (28oz) can peeled diced tomatoes, juice reserved
2 medium red bell peppers (or one extra large one)
2 large onions, finely chopped
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. minced fresh thyme leaves
3 Tbs. chopped fresh parsley leaves
½ cup chopped fresh basil leaves
pepper

Place the eggplant in a large colander set over a bowl and sprinkle with about 2 tsp. salt and toss to distribute evenly. Let stand for at least an hour- there should be liquid dripping out of the colander by then. Rinse the eggplant well the remove the salt and then lay it out between two triple thicknesses of paper towels. Press the eggplant firmly until the towels absorb most of the excess liquid. Toss the eggplant with 1 Tbs. olive oil and spread it out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, season with salt to taste.

Preheat oven to 500?F.
Toss the zucchini with 1 Tbs. olive oil and spread it out on a parchment paper lined baking sheet, season with salt to taste.
Put both the eggplant and the zucchini in the oven and roast the vegetables, stirring every 10 minutes, until well-browned and very tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large heavy pot, heat 2 Tbs. olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until the onion is golden and very soft, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and the tomatoes and cook about 5 minutes.
Cut the bell pepper in half and roast it over the open flame of the stove, or in your broiler if it works (mine doesn’t) until it has a bit of black crust on it. Wrap it in tinfoil and let it steam itself for about ten minutes then scrape off most of the black crust and chop it into one inch pieces and add to the pot.

When the eggplant and zucchini are done, add them to the pot, stirring gently. Add the reserved tomato juice and bring to a high simmer. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley, basil, and thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve immediately (sprinkled with grated Parmesan if you like).

Gluten-Free Crepes
Makes about 8 crepes 

* For wheat crepes, use the same amounts of flour, salt, and butter, but use only 1 egg, and 1 whole cup of milk. 
 ½ cup brown rice flour mix (2 parts brown rice flour, 2/3 parts potato starch, and 1/3 parts tapioca flour)
¼ tsp salt
½ cup milk
2 eggs
2 Tbs unsalted butter, melted

Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix well.
Butter and preheat a 6-7 inch nonstick skillet over medium heat.
Pour about 3 Tbs of batter into the pan with one hand while with the other hand holding the skillet and tilting it in a circular motion so that the batter completely coats the bottom. If you pour too much batter in, simply pour it back into the blender.

Cook about 1 min, until the underside is very light golden brown, then loosen the edges of the crepe with a spatula and flip it, cooking the other side for about 30 seconds.
Repeat until all the batter is used and serve immediately.

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