I had the unexpected pleasure of spending a weekend by myself in the Cooper-Young neighborhood of Memphis. I've got a lot more to discuss regarding the local restaurants in an upcoming SeriousEats.com article, but here's something I mentioned on Facebook, and thanks to a lot of comments, I'm elaborating here on the blog.
Saturday morning I walked over to the Cooper-Young Community Farmers Market, held in the parking lot of First Congregational United Church of Christ, known to parishioners and locals alike as First Congo. It's the kind of church where you'll attend a class on bicycle repair or participate in a drum circle, and it fits in quite nicely with the neighborhood.
The market is smaller than the ones located downtown or at the Agricenter, but has its own funky charm. You can get your organic vegetables and baked goods from the two dozen stalls, but you can also get a henna tattoo or some handcrafted jewelry. And the prices are great--my haul at right (including some delightfully tasty chantenay carrots) was a mere $9. I like the kind of cooking where you look at what is in season and tastes good first, and then build the menu.
I had to grab a few things from the grocery store. Here's the general idea for my take on a French classic.
Benito's Tarte Ratatouille
1 Chinese Eggplant
6 Spring Onions
2 Yellow Summer Squash
3 Cloves Garlic
2 Big Tomatoes
1/2 Tub Ricotta Cheese
2 Cans of Croissant Dough
Salt & Pepper
When I'm talking about spring onions, I'm talking about the ones that have a big bulbous bottom, yet still have delicate green stalks. Feel free to substitute shallots and thin green onions for garnish. Start with the eggplant. I like long thin Chinese Eggplant because it slices into bite-size pieces and isn't full of seeds. Cut everything about 3/16" thick. Set aside and get ready for some sautéing.
Slowly pan fry the eggplant in olive oil until it becomes soft and tender. Set aside, and get to work on the squash. Slice up the onions and cook those until translucent, and then add in minced garlic. Set aside, and be sure to keep all the ingredients separate in your holding area. Traditional ratatouille gets all mixed up, but we're keeping the pieces distinct and beautiful in this dish.
Slice the tomatoes and drain a lot of the liquid using paper towels. Mix the onions and garlic and egg with half a tub of ricotta cheese, and season with black pepper and fresh thyme. Set aside.
Lay down one full sheet of croissant dough on a greased cookie sheet, and then use the other can to cut out some strips for borders. Poke a few holes here and there, and bake at 180°C/350°F until just golden but not brown. Take out and let cool for a bit, and check for any overcooking on the bottom.
Smear it with the ricotta blend, and then start layering your vegetables. I had big squash and tomatoes, so those I cut into quarters before layering. Just keep doing overlapping slices until you run out of room. Like one vegetable more than another? Don't be afraid to double up, or substitute zucchini, or whatever sounds good. I think it could benefit from some mushroom slices myself.
Throw it back in the oven until the edges are golden brown and watch out for any burning on edges. Remove from the oven, garnish with chopped onion tops, and enjoy with a cool Sauvignon Blanc.
If you try this, or come up with your own variation, let me know what you think!