Friday, May 16, 2014

Ragout Provencal

Our body is a temple; a gift that serves us well...for most of us, even when we abuse it. It's funny; we change the oil in our cars faithfully...and we can trade them in at any time. But our bodies? It's the only one we this life anyhow. And yet, we neglect it and expect it to function at its best.

As the weather warms to summer, it's time to peel off the layers and reveal what we have wrought over the winter months. Take an inventory of how you feel. It's just you...and you so no judgment. How do you feel...really? Did you take care of yourself over the long winter? Did you eat well? Did you exercise every day? Do you feel vital and alive or tired and lethargic? There's no hiding from yourself.

The good news is that you can turn it around, right now. Cooking delicious natural foods, simply and elegantly will rock your world. So head to the kitchen and get cooking! Let this delicious dish help you fall in love with veggies...again!

Nothing is more welcoming at the end of a long day than coming home to a hearty stew: the aroma tantalizes your senses with anticipation of the delicious food that awaits you. This French-inspired ragout enhances the rich flavors of the vegetables with an aromatic blend of herbs. You can vary the veggies and cooking time by the season.

1 large onion, cut into medium-thick wedges
3 or 4 ripe tomatoes, quartered
1 cup large dice fingerling potatoes
2 cups shiitake or cremini mushrooms, brushed clean and quartered
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, seeded, cut into large pieces
2-3 medium carrots, cut into medium chunks
2 medium zucchini, cut into medium chunks
2 to 3 medium yellow squash, cut into medium chunks
3 to 4 celery stalks, cut into ½-inch-thick diagonal pieces
8 to 10 ripe black or green olives, pitted
3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 sprigs each: oregano, thyme and basil, left whole
About 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
white wine or mirin
Spring or filtered water
2-3 sprigs fresh basil, leaves removed from stems, shredded

Preheat oven to 300F (150C). Lightly oil a deep casserole.

Toss together the vegetables, olives, garlic and arrange them so they are evenly distributed in the casserole. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and mirin to taste. Stick the sprigs of herbs through the veggies in various places to evenly distribute them. Add enough water to cover the bottom of the casserole.

Bake, uncovered, about 1-2 hours, until vegetables are creamy and soft, stirring about every 30 minutes and adding water as needed to keep the casserole moist. Remove dish from oven; remove sprigs of herbs and serve garnished with basil. I also like to freshen the dish with a squirt of lemon juice to lift the flavor.

COOK'S TIP: You can reduce cooking time by covering the veggies for the first 45 minutes and then removing the cover to brown the veggies for 15-20 minutes. You may also cook this dish all day in a slow cooker. Add some cooked white beans to the stew; make a salad and you have a feast.

No comments: