I'm back from a business jaunt from Houston to Philadelphia and back again; it's a welcome relief to return to my cozy office, the warmer Texas temperature, and home-cooked food.
Delicious food was involved for the business part (I wish I could spill the beans, but apologies, I cannot), but the business didn't involve meals. And it's those meals on the road that turn my stomach after more than a day. I pledge here to pack better snacks and be more adventurous on future trips (i.e., there is more to business travel than my in-room dining Caesar salads and yogurt).
I did have one food adventure, if you can call it that, on my trip home. I tend to take ridiculously early flights (think 5:40 am) for reasons so that my whole day isn't eaten up by travel (it's another two-hours in the car once I land in Houston). I took a slightly later flight (6:30 am) coming home from Philly this time around, and was hoping that more restaurants would be open (namely the brand spanking new new Peet's coffee--my hometown brew has a home in the newly renovated Philly airport), but sadly no.
The only outlet open before 6 am was Dunkin Donuts. It wasn't altogether disappointing; I did my undergraduate degree just outside of Philly, so the double D has some late-night nostalgia (munchkins--their brand name for donut holes--are especially scrumptious).
But rather than ordering a classic plain donut or glazed cruller to accompany my extra-large coffee, I fell prey to the advertising for their new egg-white flatbread. I like eggs. I like flatbread. I like green onions, mushrooms, and cheese.
I do not like Dunkin Donuts flatbread. If I had wanted to chew gum, I'd have opted for Juicy Fruit or mint, not egg.
In a word, it's just plain yucky, bizarrely flavored in a way that I could not put my finger on, and after a few bites, did not want to put my tongue upon, either. I hate to waste food (even more so when I'm hungry), but into the trash it went, without regret.
Now that I've had a chance to look at the ingredients on-line, I understand the shroud of mystery suffocating and obscuring all flavor. Take a peak; I stopped counting the ingredients when I got to 40 and was still only about 1/3 of the way down the list:
But enough bad taste, on to deliciousness. I did not have to stretch my imagination far. Once inside the city limits, I stopped at the local Kroger for a an eggplant, zucchini, a tin of of tomatoes, and fresh eggs. For dinner? A quick ratatouille with poached eggs.
Ratatouille is a late summer dish, best with season-end tomatoes, garden-grown squash, and fresh herbs. But I was not aiming for best; I was aiming for darn good, and my quick & easy ratatouille is just that. And to make up for the fresh factor, a gently set golden yolk gilds all in frugal, yet fabulous flavor.
I scraped my plate clean (even Nicky ventured to eat a few forkfuls of egg; he screamed at the suggestion of trying the ratatouille, though), and said my silent hallelujahs for both home and home cooked meals.
Camilla’s Quick & Easy Winter Ratatouille with Poached Eggs
Add some crusty bread, and this is enough for a light dinner for me (not for Kevin, but, fortunately, there was some leftover ham in the refrigerator for him to augment matters without complaint).
Never poached an egg? No worries, it's a snap, a technique that is easily mastered after a few tries (and the early attempts are all delectable, if not beautiful). And learning to poach eggs will make you feel like a seasoned chef with minimal investments of time and money. Epicurious has a great video for poaching eggs (link is below in the recipe).
I used to like more firmly cooked yolks, but now I like them a bit runny--a perfect sauce for so many dishes, including this ratatouille!
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium eggplant, end trimmed, cut into small cubes
2 medium zucchini, trimmed and diced
1 medium red bell pepper, seeds removed, chopped
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1/2 teaspoon each dried basil and dried oregano
4 poached eggs
Garnish: fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Heat the oil in a large, deep skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the onion; cook and stir for 2-3 minutes until softened. Add garlic and stir for 1 minute, then add eggplant and cook, stirring occasionally, for a further 2 minutes.
Add zucchini, pepper, and tomatoes (with their juices), basil and oregano. Simmer for 10 minutes until all vegetables are soft (but not mush).
While ratatouille simmers, poach the eggs to desired level of doneness.
Season ratatouille with salt and freshly ground pepper (very important), divide ratatouille between 4 plates. Top each with a poached egg and garnish with parsley. Makes 4 delicious servings (with fewer than 100 ingredients!