We lived our life as normally as we could, but we tired easily. During this time, we moved my mother to an assisted living facility. There was emotional as well as physical pain to deal with. Frankly, comfort food helped us cope.
We prepared old favorites like roast beef, meat loaf, roasted chicken, burgers and sloppy joes. Good food, certainly, but not always the best for you on a daily basis.
We have come through the fire, and we look at life much differently now. We are happy with less. Nothing rattles us too much, and we both have more patience.
And, one hopes, more wisdom.
We still enjoy comfort food, but we are trying to eat healthier, fresher foods and fortunately, that's easy to do in summer, especially this one. We had a warm March, giving local growers a head start, followed by a typical April and slightly warmer May. It's been warm now since early June, and we've managed to escape the most of the drought that's hurting crops to the south.
Zucchini abounds, as it usually does, and peppers seem to be flourishing this year. Tomatoes are holding their own. Eggplant, maybe not so much.
I had the makings for ratatouille. Only I don't make it. I made Zucchini Stuffed with Eggplant and Peppers instead.
Here's what you need:
- 1 small red pepper, roasted
- 3 average-size zucchini, hollowed out with a melon baller
- sea salt and pepper
- herbes de Provence
- 1 clove garlic, crushed
- 1/2 cup onion, chopped
- 2/3 cup eggplant, cubed
- 1/2 cup green pepper, cubed
- 1-2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2/3 cup grated cheese to melt on top
Preheat oven to 350.
Trim red pepper. Cut into one-inch strips and drizzle with oil, roasting for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Set aside when finished; allow to cool.
While pepper is roasting, chop onion, eggplant and green pepper and into small cubes. Sauté lightly. I added small chunks of seasoned chicken sausage; this is optional. Cover and set aside.
Pour olive oil into skillet and add minced garlic, cooking under moderate heat until garlic begins to turn gold. Add the other vegetables, stirring frequently. Cut the red pepper into small squares and add it to the skillet mix. I did not skin mine; I think this is a matter of preference.
Meanwhile, using a knife and a melon baller or grapefruit spoon, hollow out 2-3 zucchini so they look like little canoes (as my husband observed as he watched). Mine were rather average in size, but you could do this with one Monster Zucchini. Season the hollowed-out part of the "canoes" with a dab of butter, salt, pepper and a dash of herbes de Provence.
Partially cook the zucchini, covered, in a microwave. I cooked them for a total of about 5 minutes, testing frequently. The zucchini must remain firm throughout.
Once the zucchini is semi-cooked and the filling is lightly sauteed, allow both to cool slightly to make handling easier. Stuff the filling into the hollowed out zucchini, placing in a shallow baking dish.
(I had some of the mixture left over, and that's what I ate while my zucchini baked.)
Cover with foil and bake for 30-50 minutes, testing frequently. Do not allow the zucchini to get mushy.
Sprinkle with grated cheese before removing from the oven, and give the cheese a chance to melt before removing from the oven.
Total comfort food! And pretty darned healthy, too. The zucchini was bland enough to make you feel good and seasoned enough to be interested.