While I don't derive pleasure from killing any living beings, I do derive pleasure from their deaths. This is true for anyone who eats of the flesh. Were I a nobler human being, one further along on the path to transcendence, I suppose I would be a vegan and eschew all animal products. Let the bees enjoy their honey! Let the foxes eat the hens eggs!
Alas, I am but a base creature who savors the flesh of other creatures. Smoke the bees out of their hives and harvest their combs. Break those eggs and fix me a frittata. Flay that beast so that I may have a belt and shoes. Much as I might wish I were more enlightened, I am borne with the desire for blood and marrow.
I have evolved enough that I do not insist on animal sacrifice for every meal. I am a big fan of dairy products, but they need not be present in every dish. Fresh, seasonal vegetables properly prepared are no less satisfying than a well cooked piece of meat. Salt and pepper tofu is not better than salt and pepper shrimp, but can be as delicious. In summer in northern California we are blessed with an abundance of great produce. This appetizer takes advantage of the local bounty.
Having recently received some wonderful zucchini, Japanese eggplant, and tomatoes from a former colleague who has been forced into retirement by an adult education program managed by a mean-spirited and vengeful drunk, I decided to try these out. The filling is not a true ratatouille, but a simple sauté of the vegetables you would find in one. Unless you possess amazing knife skills, a mandoline is needed for slicing the zucchini. The zucchini are grilled, allowed to cool, and then rolled around a spoonful of the sautéed vegetables. The end result is a tasty appetizer packed with the flavors of summer.
Zucchini Ratatouille Roll-Ups
1 medium size zucchini
1 large red pepper
1/2 yellow onion, peeled, finely chopped
2-3 Japanese eggplant, chopped into a small dice
1 clove of garlic, peeled, minced
3 TBS olive oil
salt, to taste
1/2 tsp --1 tsp herbs de provence
chives (I used garlic chives because I had them in) blanched and drained
finely julienned fresh basil (optional)
With a mandoline, slice the zucchini lengthwise into pieces about 1/8" thick. You will have some odds and ends of zucchini leftover. Cut these into a small dice and reserve them. Brush the zucchini slices with olive oil and grill on a medium hot grill 4 to 5 minutes. You don't want to overcook these, but you do want to have good grill marks on at least one side. Remove from the grill and cool.
Char the pepper on the grill. When the skin is blackened on all sides, place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for fifteen minutes or so. Rub the charred skin off the pepper. Cut the pepper into a small dice.
At the same time the pepper is on the grill, char the tomatoes. They will probably take less time. Peel and chop into small dice.
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan. Add garlic and onions and cook until softened, but not browned. Add the eggplant and continue cooking until softened. Stir in the reserved zucchini bits. Add in the diced peppers and tomatoes along with the herbs de provence, season to taste with the salt, and simmer over a low heat until almost all of the liquid is cooked off and you have this wonderful ratatouille jam. Remove from the heat and let cool. If you like, julienned basil is a nice addition.
Take a heaping teaspoonful of the vegetable mixture and place on the wide end of a zucchini strip. Roll up and secure the roll by tying it with a blanched chive. These can be made several hours before serving. Serve at room temperature.
Obviously, this recipe is very flexible. Use what you like and adapt it to your taste. I got nine slices out of the zucchini. There was more filling, but I ended up just eating that by the spoonful.