Monday, July 30, 2012

A Simple Weeknight Dinner

I am, for all intents and purposes, a "throw-together" kind of cook. I am learning, for my other food blog, how to pre-meditate recipe magic but on most nights, family dinners are the result of throwing some ingredients together and hoping it is tasty. Don't get me wrong - I do plan out my meals weekly so I can shop but I pluck them out of my imagination and not a cookbook. I might buy spinach, eggs, strawberries and walnuts with the intention of making a salad. When it comes to flavourings, it's "a little of this, a little of that". Some nights the results are amazing, other nights, not so much. When it does go right, I usually can't replicate it. 


So, as I was finishing up with dinner the other night, the thought crossed my mind to actually write down the recipe. And now, I can share it with you. 


This recipe takes full advantage of summer produce at its peak and is very simple to prepare. The key here is really to take the time and get the size of the veggies right and to cook everything properly. Given a quick chop and cook you will have a fresh and healthy meal - let the flavours and textures transform with some slow simmering (while you do something else) and you get a bit of magic. The texture of this dish is like a ratatouille so while I envisioned it as a pasta sauce, you could eat it as a side dish or on its own with some nice crusty bread. So, just in case you were wondering what to make for dinner tonight....






Summer Vegetable Ragu
Serves 6 as a side dish or pasta sauce


2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 sweet yellow onion, finely diced
1 medium zucchini, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 bell peppers, finely diced
1/4 cup fresh chopped fennel fronds (with stem)
11/2 cup passata (strained) tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
540ml can soft white beans (such as cannellini or navy beans), rinsed well and drained
2 tbsp butter (optional...but tasty)
salt and pepper to taste




In a large sauté pan, heat olive oil on medium-high. Add onions and sauté until glossy and golden, reducing heat if the onions start to brown. Add zucchini and cook until zucchini gets a nice caramelized crust, about 10 minutes. 


Season with salt and pepper at this point then add garlic and bell peppers,  stirring constantly for about 3 minutes so the garlic doesn't brown. Add the pasta sauce and water and stir. Then add fennel and beans and stir through. 


Simmer on medium low for 5 minutes (when you are in a hurry) or for 45 minutes at a slightly lower temperature to really let flavours blend. Keep turning stove down so that the sauce never boils. To finish, season to taste and add butter (if desired) and stir through for a richer flavour.


Serve with your favourite bread or pasta (I used Tinkyada Brown Rice pasta)
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