Sorry for not posting anything for the past few weeks. My mom peacefully passed away on October 28th. R.I.P. With planning for traveling and preparing for funerals, and everything else that comes with such event, I didn’t have the energy or the time to write.
Two weeks before turning ninety two, her soul gently departed and embarked upon her next journey. Finally she is reunited with dad! After his passing, almost 5 years ago, she lived independently, courageously and intentionally on her own pretty much until the end! She lived through WWII, experienced real loss (her father when she was young adult, 2 children…). Unlike most women of her generation, not only did she raise a family but also worked most of her life in real estate, and had to learn everything on the ground. She kept family and professional life going full speed! When it was time to retire, instead of resting or going on cruises, both decided to volunteer for almost 12 years! So here it is to a life well lived with much grace.
When parents depart, children have to go through their belongings and often discover unknown things about them. Bless my dad for keeping such detailed records for more than 2 generations before him (photos, letters, official documents etc.) As a young adult, we tend to mostly look ahead of us, figuring out who we are while making our own path. As a middle age woman (I can’t believe I am saying this because I am not feeling it inside!) finding out about those who came before us takes on a new meaning! Where do we get our gifts from? Why do we act like we do? And so in looking into lost boxes, photo albums, and correspondence, I found out that my mother came from a long line of strong and powerful women! No wonder! Turns out we are all standing on the shoulders of those who came before us. You will all be missed!
Past and present
And so I have been splitting my time between reading about the past and dealing with pesky paperwork in the present (OMG! France loves paperwork!) A bit like a modern Indiana Jones pilfering though my family records, trying to figure out why my dad kept all these records. I found my grand parent’s handwritten school booklets with grades and teacher’s notes! Every birth and death announcements! Photo albums… Trying to figure out who are these people on these black and white photos, deciphering delicate hand writing in letters, imagining places and stories… Stopping time, or maybe bringing it back into the present! Maybe time isn’t linear as we have been told. I have noticed that when people are nearing their transition, they end up reliving their childhood, as if the horizontal line of time had bent into a circle making both end touch. Having read some of these letters, I feel like many of these ancestors have come back not only to greet mom on the other side, but to also send their blessings for those who are left behind and must go on! This also happened around All Saints Day (El Dia de los Muertos!) so there you go!
Because she worked every day, mom didn’t really have hours to spend in the kitchen to prepare meals, so her food reflected the goodness of the Mediterranean region. Fresh and local ingredients mostly bought at the Farmer’s market that deliver on flavor without the need of fancy sauces. Dishes that come together fairly quickly without having to cook for hours! When she was still hosting dinners, mom was known for several flagship dishes. Her lasagne were incredible, and so was her ratatouille.
She also made the best grilled panini, also called croque-monsieur in French and the most amazing chocolate mousse and “Ile flottante”, a stunning dessert that is mostly made with fluffy egg whites floating on a rich egg yolks custard. I have since attempted to create a vegan version and came pretty close to the same fluffiness and creaminess. So stay tune for a future post about this amazing desert!
Back to our ratatouille! Not only is it on of my favorite cartoon character but this dish encapsulates so much of the Provence region where lavender, rosemary and thyme are found just about everywhere! What I love about ratatouille is that you only need a few vegetables that can be found all year around, namely: onions, zucchini, eggplant, yellow or orange peppers and ripe tomatoes. You will also need garlic, dry and fresh herbs like thyme, and basil. If you choose to make a rustic ratatouille you will want to panfry each vegetable on its own at first and only combine them at the end. This will preserve the texture of each vegetable.
Many ways to serve ratatouille
You can make it as a side dish with big rustic chunks (my personal favorite), as an appetizer on toasted bread with finer bits or as a main dish with layers of thin slices elegantly spread across the dish. You can also serve it with pasta, grain, omelets, and frittatas.
– Cook the eggplants, the bell peppers and zucchini separately so that they maintain their shape and juices.
– Only use orange or yellow bell peppers (green peppers are hard to digest and have the least amount of nutrients)
– Make the ratatouille the day before so that the flavors will increase.
– Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
– Make extra and freeze (will keep for 3-5 months) but the zucchini won’t be crisp.
There you have it. Have fun making it!
- 1 large round eggplant diced (not Japanese)
- 2 medium zucchini diced
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 2 yellow or orange bell peppers seeded and cubed
- 2 large ripe tomatoes diced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2-3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- fresh basil leaves
- 1 tsp raw sugar
- salt & pepper
- Place the eggplant in a large bowl and sprinkle 1/2 tsp of salt. Quickly mix.
- Heat up a frying pan and add 1-2 tbsp of olive oil. Pan fry the eggplant in batches until they are soft, and lightly browned. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Using the same pan, add more oil and quickly stir fry the zucchini for a few minutes. set aside.
- Add 1 tbsp of oil and pan fry the diced onion, bell pepper and garlic for a few minutes making sure that you don't burn the garlic.
- Add the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar, 1/2 tsp of salt, and dry herbs.
- Stir and simmer for a few minutes until the tomatoes turn into sauce.
- Fold in the eggplant, and zucchini and simmer for a few more minutes.
- Taste and season. Add fresh minced basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil before serving.