I love going to the markets and seeing the spring and summer produce slowly appear. Every year, when summer turns to winter, I miss the abundance of fruit and vegetables that are in their prime but after a few months, it’s easy to forget what a good tomato looks like. Now that peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes are back and super cheap, I feel like my dinners would be lost without them. While there is nothing better or fresher-tasting than crunching into a whole red pepper or a lightly salted tomato sometimes it’s nice to have a warm, hearty meal. In fact, there’s nothing more satisfying than applying a little bit of heat, some herbs and spices, and coaxing the best, freshest produce into an easy, weeknight dinner in under half an hour. That’s exactly what this spring ratatouille is.
One of our friends is a complete expert when it comes to Indian food. Since we’ve been here, she’s hosted a couple of feasts at her apartment. It’s mind blowing to me that she can make so many diverse, vegetarian (!) dishes, all by herself. On the surface most of her food seems super simple but as soon as you eat it, you know someone with a knowing hand cooked them. A couple of weeks ago, we decided we would host one of these feasts together. I will be an extra pair of hands (grasping at as much knowledge as humanly possible) but she is definitely in charge of the recipes. Even though our dinner is a couple of weeks away, I got so excited about it, that I had her bring me to a specialty Indian grocery store to show me the spices, produce and other treats that I have sometimes come across but have no idea what to do with. I restrained myself and came home with a few new spices and different types of lentils to play with. With no capability to freestyle, the first thing I did was dust off my old copies of Vij’s at Home and Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick and Easy Indian Cooking. I’ve promised myself that I will cook Indian once a week so that I can actually work through the dozens of recipes that I have marked with post-its.
As much as I love experimenting in the kitchen, sometimes you just need to eat. Fast. However, more often than not, I still want a nice warm meal that I won’t regret 10 minutes after eating it. The other night was a night just like that one and I went through my mental account of what we had in the fridge. Leeks. Carrots. Cherry Tomatoes. Tofu. I started trying to put together a meal in my mind, when I thought, forget it, a bowl of pasta is all that I want. For some reason, I always feel like pasta is a cop out. Before I took my interest in cooking seriously, pasta was on the menu easily 4 times a week. It is warm, comforting, filling and easy. But, I think I have to get over it, because sometimes pasta is just the right thing.