Our third anniversary.

JLB-Wedding-photographer

(photo from my wedding courtesy of Jeffery Lewis Bennet)

Last week was pretty rough.  Between my husband working from 11am to 11pm all week and our son being sick, we had an unexpected death.  A really good friend of my husband had suddenly passed away at the young age of 27.

Way too often life can become a monotonous routine.  Wake up.  Go to work.  Come home.  Go to bed.  Sometimes it comes too naturally for me to nit-pick the little things.

“Carl, you looked like you slept in that, you should change your shirt.”                                                                                       “How hard would it be to put your dirty clothes in the laundry basket?”

And then today, I look through our wedding album to find a photo for this post and see the photo of us relaxing on the sofa.

Just the two of us.

The first time I ever saw that face I knew right then and there I was going to spend the rest of my life with him.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the everyday and let the little things grind you down.  I learned the hard way last week that they don’t really matter.

Life is short and beautiful.  Finding someone to spend it with is a gift.

xo – Kristin

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Longing For Le Creuset Ratatouille

ratatouille-french-vegetables-side-dish

This year the premier kitchenware maker Le Creuset celebrates it’s 90th anniversary. Their most iconic, and most reviered, piece is the dutch (or french) oven. Often imitated, but never duplicated. We long for the day when we can our call one of those beauties our own. It remains at the top of our kitchen wish lists. Despite lacking a Le Creuset dutch, we decided to pay homage to the object of our desires by making the classic french vegetable stew, ratatouille.

Ratatouille is one of those things that is more a technique than a specific recipe. A quick Google search for a recipe will reveal seemingly infinite variations of the classic recipe. Basically it consists of onions, peppers, tomatoes (fresh or canned, it matters not), zucchini, eggplants, and various aromatics cooked down to a luscious stew. Traditionally, it was a way to take advantage of the bounty of produce from the garden. It is eaten hot or cold/room temperature. And like (every) other stew, it taste even better the next day.

ratatouille-french-vegetables-side-dish-fresh

Some advice on selecting the eggplant and zucchini (and summer squash if using): smaller is better. This helps with both texture and flavor. When we went to the produce market we were lucky to find practically perfect baby eggplants. However, we did not fare so well when it came to the zucchini and summer squash. We selected the smallest specimens available, and even though they were not ideal, we still ended up with a damn tasty ratatouille.

ratatouille-french-vegetables-side-dish

ratatouille-french-vegetables-side-dish

ratatouille-french-vegetables-side-dish

This recipe makes a LOT of Ratatouille, so feel free to scale it down, or not, because it freezes well.***

Oh, Martha’s Ratatouille

Ingredients

Olive Oil

3 Large Onions, sliced into large half moons

3 Red Bell Peppers, cut into 2 inch strips 1/2 inch thick

2 28 ounce cans of Whole peeled tomatoes, seeded and juices strained

2 TBL Finely chopped garlic

11/2 pounds of zucchini, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch slices*

11/2 pounds of summer squash, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/2 inch slices. Or additional zucchini*

2 pounds of baby eggplants, tops trimmed and quartered**

1 tsp  thyme

1 tsp oregano

Salt, to taste, and for leeching vegetables, if necessary

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 TBL chopped fresh basil (or 1 tsp dried), plus more for garish

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees farenheight. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a large dutch oven heat a thin layer of olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and red bell peppers. Saute until the onions are translucent. Add the garlic, tomatoes, and some to all of the strained juices. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan or skillet, heat a thin layer of olive oil over medium to medium high heat. Working in batches, add zucchini and summer squash in a singsle layer. You may need to add more oil in between batches. Saute until golden brown inn spots. Add to the other vegetables.
  2. In a large bowl, toss eggplant with a tablespoon of olive oil. Brush the parchment of the baking sheet with olive oil as well. Spread eggplant in a single layer and roast in the oven 20 to 30 minutes, or until well browned. Occasionally tossing. Add the eggplant to the ratatouille. Add the dry herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until reduced and thick, the time will vary depending on the water content of the vegetables used. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley and fresh basil.

Notes

*If your zucchini and summer squash are on the larger side, seed them (which is what we should have done) and place slices in a large colander, generously salt, toss and set aside for about 30 minutes for the salt to draw out excess water. Rinse of the salt and dry before sauteing.

**If using larger/”regular” eggplants cut into 2 inch sized pieces, place in a large colander, generously salt and set aside for 30 minutes for the salt to draw out the excess water. Rinse off the salt and dry before tossing with olive oil.

***If you end up freezing the ratatouille take note that the herbs will lose a lot of their flavor when thawed out, so be prepared to re-season the stew.

Serve with pasta, as a savory crepe filling, with crusty bread, or however your heart desires. We like it topped with a poached egg or two.

Oh, Martha! Monthly Gathering V1

mediterranean-night-dinner-party

We thought a Mediterranean dinner party would be a wonderful way to take advantage of the bounty of late summer produce and a tasty way to enjoy the company of friends. And lo and behold there was a piece in MSL on preparing a Mediterranean dinner party. So with Martha’s guidance, we developed a menu plan.

We attempted to make pita bread from scratch, the key word being attempted. Luckily we were able to get our hands of the good stuff from New Yasmeen Bakery in Dearborn. We also bought some delectable baklava from there as well. When were purchasing our baked goods we noticed that just down the street is Dearborn Halal Meat Market. So, we decided to purchase our meat there for the kofta.  When we inquired if they had ground turkey, the clerk said he had just the thing…He went over to the freezer and pulled out a package of beige ground meat; which, he informed us, was already seasoned. The frozen block of meat was dubious looking, to say the least, but we placed our trust in it’s authenticity. Originally we had planned to use Martha’s recipe for the kofta, but after frying a bit of the mystery meat for a taste test it was clear that it was deliciously well seasoned.  To complement the spices we added one cup chopped onion and a cup of chopped parsley to the two pounds meat, and followed Martha’s instructions for preparation.

grilled-kofta-kabob

We served the kofta with pita, a simple (and simply delish) tomato and cucumber salad, quick pickled beets and radishes, cucumber yogurt sauce, extra cucumber slices (to state the obvious, we LOVE cucumbers), Martha’s red bean-tahini spread (basically a kidney bean hummus) and Lebanese tomato sauce. And as previously mentioned, we had stellar baklava for desert.

quick-pickled-beets-and-radishes

red-bean-tahini-spread

Good food and good company were enjoyed by all. It’s always wonderful to share and savor a meal made with love with good friends.  The best compliment came from Carl, saying that food goes together, not just in a complimentary sense, but that it could all be mixed up together and still taste amazing.