The transition from summer to fall is my very favorite time of the year. I love the cool mornings and sunny (but not humid) days. It is the perfect time for making my favorite comfort food: Ratatouille. Like all good comfort foods, it is warm and filling and permeates your house with delicious smells as it cooks low and slow on the stove. And during this change of seasons, I love that I can still get great fresh garden vegetables and herbs to use in this recipe.
Ratatouille is not always the most visually appealing dish, but is bursting with flavor. It is full of hearty vegetables: eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes, and lots of fresh herbs Then cooked down on the stove until the flavors blend and meld into the most delicious vegetable stew. Eating healthy has never tasted better!
This is Little A’s very favorite side dish. His face just lights up when he smells it as he comes into the house. All of the kids love it except for Little J (but she hardly counts as she turns her nose up to EVERY vegetable in this dish).
Ratatouille makes a perfect side dish to grilled or roasted meats. I love to serve it this time of year, when we still like to grill chicken, pork, or other things outside. Grilled meat is wonderful, but also begs for something juicy to eat with it. Ratatouille fits that bill perfectly. It is also great later in the winter with a roasted pork tenderloin, roast chicken, or beef roast.
This recipe makes a good-sized pot of ratatouille. You could always scale it back if you don’t want to make that much, but I love to have leftovers of this dish. It makes a perfect lunch all on its own the next day. Or as a sauce for pasta for an easy meal later in the week.
I never measure things when I make this recipe. It is very flexible based on your personal tastes. Below is a good approximation of the amounts that I use.
½ cup olive oil
1 large eggplant, skin on, diced
2 onions, chopped
1 red/orange/yellow pepper, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 zucchini and/or yellow squash, sliced and quartered
1 tsp salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp dried Italian seasoning
3 cups chopped tomatoes
½ tsp Tabasco sauce (adjust to taste)
3 Tbs chopped fresh basil*
2 Tbs chopped fresh parsley*
1 Tbs chopped fresh thyme*
1 Tbs chopped fresh oregano*
Heat olive oil in a large saucepot. Add eggplant to the hot oil and cook until eggplant begins to soften. Add onions, red pepper and garlic and cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini, salt, pepper, and dried herbs; cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat. Add chopped tomatoes and Tabasco sauce and cook over medium-low heat, uncovered, until mixture is cooked down and thickened (30-40 minutes). Stir in fresh herbs during the last 10 minutes of cooking. Taste and add additional salt, if necessary.
*Or substitute an additional 2-3 tsp dried Italian seasoning for the fresh herbs.
Teriyaki Chicken is an easy and delicious way to grill chicken. You can also broil it in the oven if summer storms roll in just as you are getting the grill ready.
I like to use boneless chicken thighs when I make this. They are moist and tender and less likely to dry out when grilled.
6-8 boneless chicken thighs or 4 boneless chicken breasts
½ cup soy sauce
3 Tbs brown sugar
1 Tbs sherry (or rice vinegar)
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ tsp fresh ground ginger
½ tsp cornstarch + 2 Tbs water
Combine all sauce ingredients, except for cornstarch/water mixture, in a Pyrex measuring cup. Microwave for 1 minute, or until sugar completely dissolves. Cool.
Place chicken in a Ziploc bag. Add about 1/3 cup of the sauce to the bag and let chicken marinate for 1 hour to overnight. Grill or broil chicken until cooked through.
Stir cornstarch/water mixture into remaining sauce and mix well. Heat in a small saucepan, stirring constantly, until thickened and smooth.
Brush cooked chicken with glaze and serve with rice.
The weather here has turned from dreary, cold and rainy to beautiful, sunny and warm. So I am putting away the soup recipes for a couple of weeks, and firing up the grill. This chicken is marinated in a dressing made from lemon juice, olive oil and Greek spices (including fresh oregano-which is still hanging on in my garden!). The tomato cucumber salad is a nice accompaniment to the grilled chicken, providing a tangy balance to the chicken.
When I prepare chicken or other meat to grill, I always make double and freeze half in a separate Ziploc bag for a quick meal another day. You can either cook all of it and freeze the extra cooked chicken (either whole or diced) to add to future recipes, or freeze the extra raw chicken in the marinade, and then thaw and grill it another day.
After making the marinade, I put a small amount (about ¼ cup) in a separate Ziploc bag and marinated some fresh asparagus, and then grilled it alongside the chicken. I put the asparagus on the grill at the same time as I turned the chicken over, and they were done at about the same time. Zucchini/summer squash would be another great vege to marinate and grill.
We ate the grilled chicken and asparagus with this Greek tomato and cucumber salad topped with feta cheese. Most of my garden is done for the year, but I do still have some green tomatoes slowly ripening on my kitchen counter. A couple of nice red ones made for a great fresh end-of-summer salad. You can find the recipe for the salad HERE.
Grilled Greek Chicken
6-8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tsp fresh lemon zest**
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs fresh oregano, chopped (or 1 tsp dried oregano)
1 tsp Greek seasoning (or additional oregano)
½ tsp sage
½ tsp marjoram
½ tsp black pepper**
Place chicken breasts in a Ziploc bag. Combine marinade ingredients and pour over chicken. Marinate in refrigerator 6-8 hours or overnight. Remove from refrigerator 30-45 minutes before cooking.
Preheat grill to medium-hot and grill chicken 15-18 minutes, or until well browned and firm but not hard to the touch. Actual cooking time will depend on the thickness of your chicken, the heat of your grill and the temperature outside, so don’t overcook.
**or omit lemon zest and black pepper and substitute 1 tsp lemon-pepper seasoning
FOR GRILLED GREEK ASPARAGUS (OR OTHER VEGETABLE):
1 lb fresh asparagus (or zucchini/summer squash or other vege of choice)
¼ cup marinade from above recipe
Place asparagus or sliced vegetable into a Ziploc bag. Add marinade (be sure to place marinade in vegetable bag before adding it to the chicken bag). Let sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes (longer is fine too). Grill for 5-6 minutes, or until crisp-tender.
Recipe adapted from Kalyn’s Kitchen
Most of my garden is finished now: just a few lingering tomatoes and herbs. And mint. Lots and lots of mint. Mint is an indestructible herb; plant it once, and it will be with you for life. Like it or not. Thanks to this mint chutney recipe, I really like the mint in my garden.
There are actually both mint and cilantro in this chutney, but the mint is definitely the star player here. Chutneys are an Indian condiment that are usually a combination of both sweet and spicy elements, and often preserved with vinegar. This chutney does not have a strong sweet component, as it uses mint and cilantro as the base instead of fruit, but it does have a slightly sour tang from lemon juice. The heat comes from onion and hot peppers. I make it pretty spicy, but you can tone it down by using less hot pepper.
Mint chutney is a great accompaniment to grilled chicken, or more traditional Indian foods, like Samosa, tandoori chicken, or Naan.
I used THIS RECIPE for the grilled chicken, which is called “Spicy Grilled Chicken”, but really isn’t all that spicy. It has a little bit of mint in the marinade, so it pairs really well with the chutney. The Roasted Indian Spiced Cauliflower was also great eaten with the mint chutney.
Mint Cilantro Chutney
1 cup packed fresh mint leaves
1 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
½ of a small onion
½ – 1 fresh hot chili pepper (remove seeds if desired)
6 cloves garlic
1 tsp fresh ground ginger
3 Tbs fresh lemon juice
½ tsp salt
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp garam masala
¼ tsp ground cumin (or 1 tsp whole cumin seeds)
Using a blender, food processor, or mortar & pestle, blend all ingredients until finely chopped. Add water 1 Tbs at a time (usually about 2-3 Tbs total) until chutney is desired consistency.
Serve with Grilled Chicken or roasted vegetables, or more traditional Indian foods, like Samosa, tandoori chicken, or Naan.
Makes about 1 cup chutney
Roasted Indian Spiced Cauliflower with Yogurt Dip
1 head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs lemon juice
1 tsp turmeric
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp garam masala
¼ tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)
Preheat oven to 425°F.
In a Ziploc bag, mix spices with the olive oil and lemon juice. Add cauliflower to bag. Mix well and allow the dressing to coat cauliflower evenly. Spread the cauliflower in a roasting dish (line with foil for easy cleanup) and bake for 20-30 minutes.
While cauliflower is cooking, prepare mint chutney or yogurt dip, and chill until serving time.
When cauliflower is crisp-tender, remove it from the oven, and serve immediately with chutney or yogurt dip on the side.
Recipe adapted from Sassy Radish
1 cup plain yogurt (for a thicker dip, use Greek yogurt or strain yogurt in cheesecloth lined colander)
1 Tbsp chopped fresh dill, or 1 tsp dried dill
1 Tbsp minced fresh mint (or use cilantro without the dill and mint)
½ tsp cumin (optional)
½ tsp salt
Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
Makes 1 cup dip
I love the colors of summer food. Bright, vibrant hues that scream freshness!
This fresh salsa is one of my favorites. Fresh tomatoes, mangos (or peaches or nectarines), cilantro, black beans, and just a little bit of fresh hot pepper. It is not too spicy, which makes it perfect to pair with a spicy grilled chicken.
Spicy Grilled Chicken
6 boneless chicken breasts or 10 boneless chicken thighs
1 Tbs smoked paprika
1 Tbs chili paste (or 1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes)
6 cloves garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 chopped mint leaves
Place chicken pieces in a Ziploc bag.
Combine paprika, chili paste, garlic, salt, olive oil, Worcestershire sauce, and mint. Add to the bag with the chicken. Seal and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 2-3 hours, or overnight.
Heat grill. Remove chicken from marinade and grill until cooked through.
Serve with Black Bean Fruit Salsa, if desired.
Adapted from Once Upon a Plate
Black Bean Fruit Salsa
1 cup black beans, drained & rinsed
1 cup corn
3-4 tomatoes, chopped (or 2 cups quartered cherry tomatoes)
1-2 mangos, nectarines, or peaches, chopped
1 hot banana or jalapeno pepper, minced
1 small red onion, finely chopped
5 green onions, sliced
3 Tbs fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbs olive oil
½ bunch cilantro, finely chopped
½ tsp salt
Combine all ingredients. Toss gently. Serve with tortilla chips or as a condiment to grilled chicken or fish.
Also try with Grilled Peruvian Chicken Thighs
Okay, technically this is linguini. But if you close your eyes, it all tastes the same anyway.
This is one of Big J’s favorites. It ranks in his top 5 meals (maybe even higher), and is the only non-Asian based meal on the list. It is easy enough to put together that when I’m looking to score some “Good Mom Points”, I will even make it for him for lunch. He definitely counts this as one of the homeschool perks: hot home-cooked lunches instead of soggy PB&J.
I didn’t get any prep pictures of the the Alfredo Sauce, but it is basically a wonderfully rich blend of chicken broth, cream, cream cheese and Parmesan cheese. There is no need for added thickeners (flour, cornstarch, etc). The cheeses make it plenty thick all on their own! It can easily be put together while your pasta is cooking.
You can serve it on its own, but I usually have several “toppings” on hand as well: chopped grilled chicken, cooked & crumbled bacon, steamed or roasted broccoli, barely-cooked baby peas (these are my favorite!).
This is an easy to work with dough (very similar to the Cinnamon Twist dough, just without the egg and sugar).
Divide dough in half and roll out into rectangles. Use a sharp knife to cut dough into strips (a pizza cutter works great).
Melt butter in a jellyroll pan (here I have half of a batch of dough in a 9×13” pan). Place strips in pan, and turn each strip over to coat both sides with butter. Cover pan and let rise 30-60 minutes.
Sprinkle with garlic powder and cheese and bake for 10-12 mins.
Serve with your favorite pasta or soup dish.
¼ cup butter
1 clove garlic, minced
4 oz cream cheese, cut into cubes
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup chicken broth
1-2 Tbs white wine, optional
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
¾ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
Fettuccine (or other pasta)
Grilled chicken, cut into bite sized pieces
Bacon, cooked and crumbled
Roasted or steamed broccoli
Baby peas, cooked until just tender
In a saucepan over low heat, melt butter slowly. Add garlic and cream cheese and stir until melted. Add cream, chicken broth, white wine and pepper. Stir in Parmesan. Stir with a whisk as it heats to get a smooth sauce. Cook until sauce is smooth and heated through.
Prepare fettuccine as directed on package. Serve fettuccine with alfredo sauce and desired toppings.
1 ½ cups warm water
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs yeast
1 tsp salt
3 ½ – 4 cups flour
½ cup melted butter
Parmesan cheese, optional
Mix water, sugar, yeast, salt, and flour. Add more flour, if needed, to make a soft dough. Knead.
Melt butter in a jellyroll pan. Set aside.
Divide dough in half. Roll dough into 2 rectangles. Cut into 1-inch wide strips. Place dough strips ½ inch apart in pan, turning over to coat both sides with butter. Let rise 30-60 minutes (until doubled). Sprinkle with garlic powder and Parmesan, if desired. Bake at 400°F for 10-12 minutes.
Makes about 18 breadsticks.