Before I came to Mexico, I made some (okay, a lot. OKAY, TOO MUCH!) ratatouille in my crock pot. Until we got tired of it, it was a good way to get our veggies in during the summer. I am not always good about eating vegetables, and it’s nice to have some around to just heap in a bowl and run through the microwave. With Parmesan or Mozzarella cheese on top, it was a meal.
There are a lot of recipes for ratatouille, but I definitely wanted to try and make it in the crock pot. According to my computer, I either used this recipe or this one. Because I live so close to the awesome and exotic Buford Highway Farmers’ Market, I had in the back of my mind an idea. The idea was to make a ratatouille using vegetables and spices that come from Mexico. I brainstormed: Onion, Mexican zucchini, yellow squash, corn, poblano peppers, chayote, nopales, tomatillos… and I was going to use maybe epazote, dried chilies, cumin, Mexican oregano, and salsa verde to kick it up a bit.
I did a bit of searching on the internet, and of course, there are no new ideas under the sun, so I found a recipe for something called Mayan Ratatouille. It is from Mario Martinez of A. J.’s Fine Foods in Phoenix, Arizona. It is on several websites, so since I gave them credit, I will put it here:
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tbsp. minced fresh garlic
- 1 large Spanish onion, peeled, cored & coarsely chopped
- 2 chayotes (also known as cho-cho or mirliton), halved, seeded & coarsely chopped
- 1 large red pepper, seeded & coarsely chopped
- 2 Arbol chilies, seeded & coarsely chopped
- 2 Tbsp. achiote paste
- 1 Turkish Bay leaf
- 1 large zucchini, halved lengthwise & sliced
- 2 large, ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded & diced (substitute canned diced tomatoes if desired)
- 1 Tbsp. paprika
- ½ tsp. ground cumin
- 2 Tbsp. dried epazote or 2 sprigs fresh
- ¼ cup salad olives with pimento (or chopped pimento-stuffed green olives)
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Salt and freshly ground pepper or hot sauce to taste
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over high heat until hot, but not smoking. Add the garlic and onion and sauté until lightly browned. Add the chayote, peppers, achiote and bay leaf and sauté another 2-3 minutes. Add the zucchini, tomato, paprika, cumin, and epazote and cook, stirring often, for 3-5 minutes.
Add all remaining ingredients except for the cilantro, mix well, lower heat to low and cook another 6-8 minutes. Remove from heat, mix in the cilantro, and season to taste with salt and pepper or hot sauce. Serves 6-8.
So, here I am in Oaxaca, with markets all over the place. I sent my husband to the local equivalent of the WalMart here – interesting that they have a Sam’s Club, but no WalMart – with a translated list of ingredients. The ones he was not able to find, I made up at the big market called Benito Juarez. This afternoon, I chopped and chopped, and here is what I have so far:
- 2 Mexican zucchini
- 2 chayote squash (also called mirlitons)
- 1/2 pound of chopped cactus paddles (nopales)
- 1 white onion
- 1 1/2 to 2 poblano peppers
- 3 – 4 Roma tomatoes
- 2 to 3 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup tequila or mezcal
- 1 – 2 tsp. cumin seeds
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tbsp. chopped fresh epazote
- 2 – 3 bay leaves
- 3 sprigs of Mexican oregano (1 tsp. crushed)
- 1 – 2 tsp. of paprika (I sort of over-poured…)
- 2 – 210 gram cans of Herdez salsa verde
- 1 – 210 gram box of La Costena tomato puree
- 1 ancho chili pepper
1. First, crush and dice the cloves of garlic. Then, chop up the poblano peppers and onions into a dice. Pour olive oil in to a pan and sautee until fragrant and softened. Add Tequila or mezcal and let it boil for a bit…
2. While you are doing the cutting, cut up the tomatoes, zucchini, chayote, and nopales (I bought my nopales already chopped). I added the tomatoes first, then cumin and let it simmer for a while.
3. I added a can of salsa verde to the mix, stirred a bit, then dumped the rest of the vegetables in. They needed to cook until they are soft.
4. Now is when I start to randomly add herbs and spices. Epazote has a bit of an anise/licorice taste. I chopped that up, added some parsley, then another can of Herdez, and the tomato puree.
5. Finally, I soaked the ancho chiles in boiling water. Then, after they were soft, I put some of the liquid in a blender, added the chiles, some cumin, and a clove of garlic and some tequila. I used it as a marinade for the chicken I made, and then added the leftovers to the ratatouille.
Okay, so it’s not that scientific. Obviously, I am not ready to write a cookbook yet… But play around with it and let me know what you come up with.