In this column, chefs and cooking experts share recipes that are easy to prepare at home.
What’s the best way to prepare summer vegetables to fully appreciate their taste? Cooking expert Hatsue Shigenobu believes she’s found the answer to that question in ratatouille, or French vegetable stew.
Unique to her recipe, however, is the way she seasons the vegetables, including eggplants, zucchini and tomatoes, with miso and soy sauce, as well as infusing them with the aroma of green shiso leaves for a Japanese taste. The dish is best served cold during the summer season.
The cooking process for a typical ratatouille dish involves stir-frying vegetables with olive oil before stewing them. But this recipe requires stir-frying only. That way the vegetables "don’t break apart easily and the texture of summer vegetables can be better enjoyed," Shigenobu said.
The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Yomiuri Shimbun
A tip for cooking this simple dish is to stir-fry the ingredients with a large amount of olive oil. "It brings out the taste of the vegetables," she said.
First, stir-fry onion slices after sprinkling salt on them. When they become translucent, add chopped eggplant, zucchini and pumpkin, sprinkle more salt and stir-fry them. "Frequent dashes of salt draws the water out of the vegetables and condenses their flavors," she said.
To prevent burning, cook on a low-medium heat, taking care not to break apart the pumpkin.
Next add tomatoes, season the vegetables with soy sauce, miso and other Japanese seasonings, and continue to stir-fry.
"Miso burns easily, so add it later [in the cooking process]," she said.
Finally, add green shiso leaves, mix the ingredients and place them in the refrigerator to cool.
The dish is ready to eat when the eggplant and zucchini have absorbed enough olive oil to bring out their taste, and the tomato has sat long enough to bring a refreshing flavor to the dish. The miso also injects a depth of flavor, while shiso leaves make the dish refreshing and aromatic.
"Adding basil instead of shiso leaves gives the dish a Western taste," she said.
Besides enjoying the dish by itself, Shigenobu also recommends finely chopping the ratatouille and adding it to somen noodle sauce or pouring it over grilled swordfish or other fish as a sauce.
Serving the ratatouille like this helps increase one’s vegetable intake while also improving the taste of other foods. Seasonal vegetables can be enjoyed in various ways with this versatile dish.
1 large tomato
200 grams pumpkin (remove seeds and spongy innards)
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp miso
1 tbsp sake
½ tbsp soy sauce
5 green shiso leaves
1. Cut eggplants and zucchini into round slices 7-8 millimeters thick. Cut onion into 1.5-centimeter cubes, chop tomato into rough pieces, and cut pumpkin into 2-centimeter-long, 7- or 8-millimeter-wide pieces.
2. Pour olive oil into frying pan and heat. Add onion, sprinkle with salt and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes over low-medium heat until it softens. Add eggplants, zucchini and pumpkin, sprinkle more salt and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes.
3. When vegetables soften, add tomato and a mixture of miso, sake and soy sauce. Stir-fry about 4 minutes. Finally, add green shiso leaves cut into thick strips and gently mix all the ingredients.
4. Allow heat to dissipate before placing in refrigerator to chill completely. Serve on a plate.
A summer vegetable marinade is also recommended.
Finely chop one-fourth of an onion and cut a tomato into rough pieces. Mix in a bowl with two tablespoons of white wine vinegar, a tablespoon of olive oil, one-third teaspoon of salt and some pepper.
Cut three eggplants in half lengthwise and diagonally slice into four pieces each. Slice 200 grams of pumpkin into 4-centimeter strips, 7-8 millimeters wide. Grill the vegetables with 3 tablespoons of olive oil for 5-6 minutes.
Add them to the bowl and allow to cool. Sprinkle minced parsley over dish.
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