Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Pillsbury Pain au Chocolat

Genius comes along ever-so-rarely in this fallen world of ours. I don't think it's immodest to say that this is one of those times.

Anyone who has every consumed a Pillsbury crescent roll knows the joys of this flaky, buttery, just shy of greasy consumer miracle. And many people know the crescent rolls make brilliant pigs in a blanket when wrapped around kosher cocktail weenies. But it wasn't until a recent Sunday morning that I realized the ultimate possibility for an instant breakfast--Pillsbury pain au chocolat.

The recipe, if once can even call it that, is simple: Follow the directions on one package Pillsbury crescent rolls, but before rolling each crescent, place one small (1 cm x 2 cm) piece of semi- or bittersweet chocolate in the middle of the wide side of the triangle. Wrap the pastry around the chocolate and cook as directed. When you pull them out of the oven, eat the rolls right away and discover a delicious, melting chocolate heart within each one.

The Human Vacuum and I ate an entire package of these for breakfast recently. And we are not ashamed of ourselves in the slightest--so don't look at us like that.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ratatouille with No Peppers, and a Rat

I hate bell peppers. They're so pretty, so colorful. And, to me, they taste like hell. So naturally, my ratatouille is devoid of them. And--if I do say so myself--it's the better for it. The peppers are often a disruption in the velvety texture of the perfect ratatouille, which should be full of luscious eggplant, falling-apart squash, and rich tomato. If your ratatouille is destined to be a pasta sauce, as the Human Vacuum insists it should always be, this recipe is particularly excellent.

A note: I don't mess around with low-fat versions of this recipe. My mother-out-law does a very solid, very easy, version of ratatouille where she roasts all the veggies then tosses them together. But when you're in the mood for a rich version, with enough olive oil to keep the Mafia in business, this is the recipe to turn to. In the recipe below, I've specified the order of veggies. After each round, you can just dump them in one big bowl to keep them ready for the final phase--no need to dirty up the kitchen with a bunch of separate containers.


In a large, heavy bottomed Dutch oven, heat:
4 Tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions, roughly chopped (sweet ones, if possible)

Cook until translucent, remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Turn the heat to high and add additional oil if needed, plus:
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1 inch cubes (some people do elaborate things to remove the water from the eggplant before cooking. I just cook the damn things over high heat and it seems evaporate enough water to prevent soupiness in the final product)

Cook until browned and soft, remove with a slotted spoon and reserve. Turn heat back to medium-high and add additional oil if needed, plus:
3 medium yellow squash, cubed
3 medium zucchini, cubed

Cook until soft, turn the heat to low, then return all vegetables to the pan and add:
1 can tomatoes, diced
2 teaspoons savory, or thyme
generous pinches of salt and pepper

At this point, you could stir vigorously and it would be delicious to eat right off the bat. But if you make the ratatouille in advance and leave it over the burner on low until you're ready to eat it will improve with every additional minute on the stove. Other cookbooks say that it's even better if you make the ratatouille way in advance and leave it in the fridge overnight. I've never managed to plan that far in advance, so I pass that pearl of culinary wisdom along on the strength of hearsay alone.

In other news, there's a movie out this summer from Pixar about a French rat who happens to be an incurable gourmand. And what else could it possibly be called, but...Ratatouille. Watch the preview here.