As an eighth-grader reading Gone with the Wind, I loved the quippy dialogue, the ridiculous characters, and the mind-bending melodrama. But mostly, mostly I loved the food—skillet-baked cornbread, “yams covered with butter,” piles of “buckwheat cakes dripping syrup,” thick slices of ham “swimming in gravy.” What had me thinking for days, though, was the scene in which Scarlett, wretched with hunger and Tara smoldering around her, goes to the field to gather withered vegetables for dinner.
Ignore the red pepper, I decided to.
Her search was rewarded but she was too tired even to feel pleasure at the sight of turnips and cabbages, wilted for want of water but still standing, and straggling butter beans and snap beans, yellowing but edible. She sat down in the furrows and dug into the earth with hands that shook, filling her basket slowly. There would be a good meal at Tara tonight, in spite of the lack of side meat to boil with the vegetables. (Chapter 25)
Last week, faced with a refrigerator full of rapidly wrinkling farmers market veggies I was reminded of this scene.What did Scarlett do with those wilted turnips and cabbages, those yellowing snap beans? The best solution I know for vegetables on their way out is a big, hearty ratatouille. Perhaps because it is often used as a solution for avoiding waste ratatouille can easily become a mushy, depressing side-dish rather than a delicious and comforting main course.
To avoid this I turned my ratatouille into a tart, giving it a crispy cornmeal crust as a nod to skillet-baked cornbread and adding feta cheese and a tart homemade tomato sauce. Using the crust and sauce as a base the veggies in this recipe could easily be swapped out for whatever vegetables you need to use up, and the feta could be changed to any soft cheese you prefer.
Gone With the Wind Ratatouille Tart
Serves 3 very hungry girls (more like 5 if you aren’t as piggish and have a side-dish)
Adapted liberally from Ellie Krieger
- 1 smallish ripe eggplant (you can tell an eggplant is ripe if you press your thumb to it and it leaves an indent before springing back)
- 1 yellow zucchini
- 1 green zucchini
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
Before making the crust and the tomato sauce slice vegetables as thin as you can and lay them on a baking sheet. Brush with olive oil and season with salt. Roast at 350 for about 20 minutes or until they are just beginning to get tender (I didn’t pre-roast the veggies, but I would next time. They can roast while you make the crust and the sauce which makes for more evenly roasted vegetables and a quicker cooking time once the whole thing goes into the oven). Meanwhile, make the crust and the sauce:
- 2/3 cup yellow corn flour (believe it or not, no grocery stores in Brooklyn carried cornmeal! if you can find it, use it, but if not corn flour makes for a softer, more crumbly, but still delicious crust)
- 1/3 cup whole-grain pastry flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 3 tablespoons water
Mix together corn flour and whole wheat pastry flour in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add butter and canola oil and pulse until mixture resembles small pebbles. Add water and pulse until dough forms. Remove dough and press it into a 9″ tart or pie pan. Cover with tinfoil and weigh down with pie weights or uncooked rice and cook at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.
- 1 28 oz. can of whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano work best if you can find them)
- 1 medium white or yellow onion
- 1 stick of unsalted butter
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 2 teaspoons hot pepper or hot sauce (optional)
Pour tomatoes into a sauce pan and using clean hands squeeze them until they resemble a fine pulp. Cut butter into big pieces (about 4) and add them into the sauce. Slice and peel the onion and add that in along with two whole peeled garlic cloves and the hot pepper (if you’re using it). Let all the ingredients simmer until the onion halves are wilted (about 30 minutes), stirring occasionally. Remove the onion and garlic cloves from the sauce.
Spoon tomato sauce into the crust and cover liberally with feta cheese. Take veggies out of the oven and once they are cool enough to handle arrange them in layers on top of the cheese. Bake at 350 for another 20-30 minutes.