Ask me about my food philosophy, and it’ll be the same answer every time: obviously it needs to be delicious, made with love, mostly plant-based, and ideally, sustainable, local and in season.
You see, what we eat has far-reaching effects, probably more so than we realize. By supporting local farmers and eating seasonally, it’s much better for the environment. Our carbon footprint is reduced when we eat locally-produced stuff, and the truth is, it tastes better, too. Now, I’m not saying I don’t buy bananas (I totally do), but given the choice between a locally-grown cucumber and one grown a continent away, I’ll choose the local one every time.
Supporting local farmers also supports our local economy. I’m a small business owner, I want to support other small business owners, and hopefully they will support me. More money stays in our local economy, and that’s also a good thing.
I really love visiting farms, so I was stoked to get invited to a long table dinner last week that took place inside a working greenhouse where they were growing cucumbers. It was a really cool experience to see how they are able to grow way more cucumbers hydroponically, by growing them vertically instead of on the ground. And it’s not just cucumbers. Other farms are growing eggplant, peppers and tomatoes.
We went home with very full bellies, and also a bag of superfresh produce. I decided to turn mine into ratatouille, which is a kind of French peasant stew made of vegetables. You could serve it plain, or as a side, but I like serving mine on a bed of creamy polenta.
It’s such a great spring/summer dish, the perfect thing to make after a trip to the Farmer’s Market.
Hug a farmer, you guys! They work so hard, and without them, our lives would be much less colourful and a whole lot less delicious.
Ratatouille with Polenta
Ingredients for the stew:
- 2 tbsp–1/4 cup EVOO
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small green zucchini, not peeled, quartered and sliced into 1/2″ dice
- 1 small yellow or light green zucchini, not peeled, quartered and sliced into 1/2″ dice
- 1 small eggplant, peeled or not peeled, quartered and sliced into 1/2″ dice
- 1 yellow pepper, deseeded and sliced into 1/2″ dice
- 1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced into 1/2″ dice
- 3-4 vine-ripened tomatoes (small to medium), diced
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup olives (optional)
- 1/4 cup fresh herbs: parsley, basil, oregano
- 1/4 cup tomato sauce or 2 tbsp tomato paste plus 2 tbsp water
- salt and pepper to taste
Ingredients for the polenta:
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1/4 cup non dairy milk, unsweetened, unflavoured
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 cup corn flour
- 1/4 cup cornmeal
- 2 1/2 tsp vegan butter
- In a dutch oven on medium heat, heat up 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add the diced the onion, season and stir well. Allow to cook for about 5 minutes.
- Add the eggplant and zucchini and stir well to coat with oil (add more if needed). Season. Allow to cook for another 5 minutes or so.
- Add the garlic and stir well to combine.
- Add the peppers and stir well, allow to cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and the tomato sauce. Stir everything well together and allow to cook for 20-30 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the sauce has thickened. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and the olives. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
- Lastly, stir in the fresh herbs just before serving, reserving a few for garnish.
- To make the polenta: bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a medium saucepan. Combine the polenta and the corn flour together, and then add it to the boiling vegetable stock in a a steady, slow stream, whisking all the time.
- Turn the heat down to medium and continue to whisk until the polenta is a thick, porridge-like consistency. Remove from heat and whisk in the vegan butter and the vegan milk. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
- To serve: pour the polenta onto a large serving platter and top with the ratatouille. Garnish with fresh herbs, balsamic vinegar, EVOO and (if you’re not vegan) a little cheese.