Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Last week I had the good fortune to eat at Kuleto's, one of my favorite Italian restaurants in San Francisco. In addition, I had one of the best seats in the house, I sat at the chef's table. Kuleto's chef table is a long counter overlooking the cooking stations, next to where the servers pick up the completed dishes. Last week, I sat in front of the station that was responsible for cooking fish, steaks, and vegetables. Then, after the food was cooked, I saw it plated. Lovely, and just as delicious as it looks! The night I was there, the vegetable on most plates was a bright and tasty melange of small cubed vegetables, tossed quickly in a very small amount of olive oil, and seasoned with just a bit of salt and pepper. I watched the cook toss it expertly several times without guessing what the vegetable was. It wasn't until one of the servers asked for a simple side of ratatouille that I realized I'd been watching the prep of one of Italy's finest fall dishes.

Ratatouille is a mixture of the best of fall's vegetables. I love it, and I've been trying to get those I love to eat ratatouille for years, without much success. I've always made it the traditional way, cutting the vegetables so that one can clearly differentiate between the shiny purple of the eggplant, the bright green of the zucchini, and the delightful red of the tomato. One stealthy secret in this recipe is the size of the vegetables. All the same veggies are here, but they're cut small - no more than 3/8 inch cubes. Then, tossed quickly for a quick sizzle before being served. The second secret is how they're served - either as a base for a meat or fish or on top of pasta.


1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup diced onion
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 cup diced zucchini
1/2 cup diced red pepper
1/2 cup diced tomato
1/2 cup diced eggplant
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper


Dice all vegetables so that they are approximately the same size. I cut these to about 3/8 inch dice. Heat the olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the onion and cook for about 1 minutes. Add the remaining vegetables, plus the basil and oregano, and cook over medium high heat for an additional 4 or 5 minutes. Taste the vegetables to make sure they're done enough. They should be "al dente" - still crisp enough to maintain their shape, but cooked enough so they taste cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Makes 2-3 servings.

Stealthy Cooking Tip: Changing the shape of a vegetable makes it visually different - so that preconceived notions might not apply. In addition, using vegetables in a different way, like a nice bed for an entre of chicken or fish or as a topping for pasta, changes the preception of what it is. Shake things up and see what happens!

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