Mixed-Mediterranean Flavors by Susan Guillory

I have had more reminders lately of the wonders of French cuisine thanks to my next-door neighbor, Sophie, who is from Nice. Often when I pop over, she is preparing one of her meals from scratch for her husband and four children; No fast food crosses their portals, no soda is ever in sight. The youngest, Suzanne, works alongside her mother in the kitchen learning recipes passed down from her “pied-noir” grandmother who is a Frenchwoman born and raised in Algeria. Ratatouille is a Niçoise classic but Sophie makes it with an easy twist as a type of “confiture” baked in the oven. Last week I was invited for dinner and was served delicious zucchini simply sautéed in olive oil with fresh mint instead of basil, and roasted peppers creamed with tomatoes--an Algerian specialty. Roasting stone fruits makes for an easy dessert, since you can add them to the oven while the ratatouille is nearing the end of its baking time.

Ratatouille “Confiture”
Serves 4

1 large or 2 medium eggplants
1 large red onion
1 large orange pepper
1 large yellow pepper
2 medium zucchinis
1 container of cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup olive oil
2 cloves chopped garlic
Salt and pepper to taste

Chop all ingredients in small (but not fine) pieces. Put in large baking dish, stirring in olive oil and seasonings. Place in oven uncovered at 350 degrees for 3 to 4 hours. Stir once every half hour. This recipe can also be prepared overnight in a slow cooker on low heat. Can be served over couscous or pasta or as a bruschetta-type dish on toasted bread. Double the ingredients if more servings are needed.


Roasted Stone Fruit
Serves 4 to 6

4 peaches
4 apricots
4 nectarines
Various jams, (choose unsweetened varieties)
Chopped nuts
Various oils (olive, macadamia, avocado, etc.)
Balsamic vinegar
Liquid sweeteners like molasses, maple syrup, honey

Wash fruit, cut in half and remove stones but do not peel. Oil a large baking sheet or pan and arrange fruit halves on it. Place the pan on a counter or table with an assortment of the above ingredients besides the fruit. Gather family and friends around and have fun filling and/or covering the fruit halves with the various toppings and have an artistic culinary adventure. You can mix molasses with oil and then add chopped nuts, simply add a dollop of  colorful jam, or swirl with balsamic vinegar. A fun idea might be making this into a contest for an  event like a birthday. Place in oven with ratatouille for about 15-20 minutes until a fork can pierce them. The stone fruits can be served warm with rice, soy or almond ice creams,  or eaten cold on a hot day