Food for Thought: What we eat and how we eat it

I spend a lot of time these days thinking about is where the heck our beloved country is heading at any given moment.  Are we pioneers or just plain crazy?

But I also think about material culture, and …. FOOD.

So I hope this  will be a bit of a palate cleanser for you in the midst of our current political mayhem – not to mention earthquakes in Italy, floods and hurricanes, and  the trials of dealing with technology.

Here’s Food for Thought about things we can actually DO something about: Some simple ideas about what we are eating these days — and a great ratatouille recipe. The tips come from a site called BioTrust Nutrition (they sell stuff, but I just removed their pitch and am passing along the interesting info). The ratatouille is mine.

Today’s tidbits — It’s not just what we eat, but how we eat it. BTN’s  nutrition expert notes that :

  • if you’re eating pre-sliced strawberries,  vitamin content can be compromised byf exposure to oxygen ( its job, after all, is to oxidize, and it does that to any foods it can –  a sliced berry is more exposed to oxygen than a whole one). So eat them whole, or don’t slice them till you are ready to eat them, and get the full benefit of their antioxidant vitamins A and C.
  • When you open your Greek yogurt, don’t discard the liquid on top. That’s whey, and it is packed with protein, vitamins, and calcium. Stir it back in, and enjoy.
  • While many if not most fruits and veggies are best consumed raw, so that their vitamin content is preserved, tomatoes are more useful nutritionally if cooked. That’s because the lycopene in tomatoes is concentrated with cooking. Studies show lycopene is a powerful antioxidant.  So roast or grill, make fresh tomato sauce, slice and add those ubiquitous cherry tomatoes to soups, ratatouille, stir fry – or just saute them and serve as a side dish.

The BioTrust website, despite hawking all kinds of alleged nutritional products, has good advice. You may want to check it out at www.biotrust.com – but it’s only fair to advise that you might also end up on their sometimes annoying email list.

You’re still with me? Then enjoy this super-quick way to make great ratatouille, devised and demystified  by my sis and myself. And by demystified, I refer to the always-problematic question of how to cook the eggplant and also make all the veggies come out looking beautiful and retaining their texture … So:

GREAT END OF SUMMER RATATOUILLE

To serve 3-4 people, you’ll need one large or PREFERABLY 3-4 SMALL eggplants. The small ones are sweeter and less trouble to cook. Then, 1 zucchini, 1 yellow squash, 1 green pepper, a small onion, a clove or two of garlic, olive oil,  and about a pint of cherry tomatoes or 4 large tomatoes, plus assorted herbs (a half cup of fresh basil if available, oregano or marjoram, thyme).

Set the oven at 350.

Cut up the eggplant. If small ones, slice ‘em about an inch thick per slice. If large, cut into one-inch chunks. Place in a good-sized bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and coat the pieces of eggplant, tossing them with your hands. Cut up the yellow squash, into slices or chunks, and toss it with the eggplant. Spread both on a cookie sheet and place in oven.

Cut up the pepper, garlic, and onion. Slice the zucchini, and halve or chop up the tomatoes. In two separate skillets, start sautéing the pepper and garlic in one, while sautéing the zucchini and onion in the other. This is because the zucch is the most delicate of the veggies and will just dissolve into mush if you cook it very long. So turn it off as soon as the onions are translucent and let it sit.

Now add the tomatoes to the simmering pepper mixture, season with dried oregano and thyme (1 tsp. each) and a little salt if you wish,  and cook over low heat until well disintegrated. You will likely want to add about ¾ cup of water or wine to keep them from burning.

By now the eggplant and yellow squash should be roasted enough to finish cooking along with the tomato-pepper mixture. (The eggplant should be a muted, soft beige when removed from oven.) Add eggplant and yellow squash and simmer for 6-8 minutes. Add zucch mixture and simmer another 3 minutes. Add chopped basil, turn off heat, and let stand till ready to serve.

Ratatouille can be an entrée if served over angel hair (my fave), couscous, or rice. Serve with tossed salad and a good sourdough bread. And wine, of course!

 

 

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