Anne Willan’s Ratatouille (adapted from Julia Child) and Glazed Plum Tart (adapted from Edna Lewis)

Perfect late summer recipes from Women in the Kitchen: Twelve Essential Cookbook Writers Who Defined the Way We Eat, from 1661 to Today (courtesy of Scribner 2020).

Ratatouille, adapted from Julia Child, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, vol. 1 (1961)

In the introduction, Julia Child sums up the essence of ratatouille and we can imagine her surrounded by vegetables from the market, sautéing them one by one in a colorful enameled cast-iron casserole. The ratatouille can be kept in the casserole for serving warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6 to 8

1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound/450 g)

3 to 4 small zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds/675 g)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup/125 ml olive oil, plus more if needed

3 green bell peppers (about 1 pound/450 g), cored and diced

1 medium onion (about 1/2 pound/225 g), sliced

3 or 4 cloves garlic, chopped

Salt and pepper

2 or 3 large, very ripe tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs/675 g)

2 to 3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Medium enameled cast-iron casserole or Dutch oven

  1. Trim and peel the eggplant with a vegetable peeler. Cut it lengthwise into 3/8th-inch/8 mm slices, about 3 inches/7.5 cm long and 1 inch/2.5 cm wide. Rinse and trim the zucchini, then cut them into slices about the same size as the eggplant. Put the eggplant and zucchini in a bowl, toss with the salt, and leave them 30 minutes–salt draws out the juices. Drain the eggplant and zucchini and dry them on paper towels.
  2. In a large skillet, heat 2 or 3 tablespoons of the oil. Add the eggplants and zucchini and sauté over brisk heat, browning them lightly and adding more oil as needed, 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Set the eggplant and zucchini aside.
  3. Add the peppers and on ion to the pan with a little more oil and sauté, stirring often, until tender and the onions are starting to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and season with salt and pepper.
  4. Peel, seed, and slice the tomatoes. Spread the tomatoes on top of the peppers and onions and cook over low heat until the tomato juices start to run, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat and cook, stirring, until most of the juice has evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Set the tomato mixture in a bowl.
  5. Oil the casserole and spread one-third of the tomato mixture in the bottom. Sprinkle some parsley on the tomato mixture, then top with half the eggplant and zucchini. Add another one-third of the tomato mixture, sprinkle with parsley, and top with the remaining eggplant and zucchini. Make a final layer with the remaining tomato mixture and sprinkle with parsley. Cover the casserole and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.
  6. Uncover and baste the vegetables with their juices. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Continue simmering, uncovered, until the vegetables are moist and tender, about 15 minutes longer–if overcooked, the vegetables will become soggy. Serve the ratatouille, very warm or at room temperature, in the casserole. It will keep for up to 2 days in the refrigerator; warm it slightly before serving, as chilling may subdue the flavor.

 

Glazed Plum Tart, adapted from Edna Lewis, The Taste of Country Cooking (1976)

 Glazed plum tart, baked on August 6  by Charity Robey

So much of this tart depends on the plums: They should be almost bursting at the seams with juice. Their season is short, but when the moment strikes, a rare treat awaits with this simple tart. The dough is like a sugar cookie, only with butter holding it together. Edna suggests a ring of whipped cream inside the rim of the tart as an optional decoration.

Serves 6 to 8

1 1/2 pounds/675 g purple plum

2/3 cup/140 g sugar

For the pastry dough

1 cup/125 g flour, more for rolling

1/4 cup/60 g sugar

1 stick/110 g butter, cut in dice, more for the pan

1/2 teaspoon salt

Grated zest of 1/2 lemon

9-inch/23 cm tart pan with removable bottom or shallow springform cake pan

  1. Heat the oven to 425° F/220° C and set a rack in the center.
  2. Wash and drain the plums, halve and pit them. Set the plums, cut side down and in a single layer, in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle them with sugar and bake until the juice runs freely, 12 to 15 minutes. Set the plums aside to cool. Leave the oven on and reduce the temperature to 350° F/175° C.
  3. Make the pastry dough: In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar butter, salt, and lemon zest. With your fingertips, rub the ingredients together to form crumbs, then press them together into a ball of dough. Knead the dough in the bowl for 15 minutes, working in 1 to 2 tablespoons more flour if needed–it should be rich and sticky. (Alternatively, the dough can be mixed and kneaded with the dough hook of a stand mixer, allowing 3 to 5 minutes.)
  4. 4. Tip the dough into an uncreased tart pan and press it over the bottom and sides of the pan with your fist, making a rim that is 3/4 inch/2 cm high and about 3/8 inch/8 mm thick. Arrange the cooked plums, cut side up and in concentric circles, on the dough, reserving the syrupy juice. Bake until the crust is lightly browned, 30 – 35b minutes.
  5. Take the tart from the oven and let it cool. Transfer the plum juice to a small saucepan and stir over medium hear, simmering until syrupy, 3 to 5 minutes–take care, as it burns easily. Spoon the syrup over the plums before serving.