Spring is here and nothing quite puts the season on the plate like a batch of ratatouille. If you’ve never had it, it’s a vegetable dish usually made with onions, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers. The veggies are sauteed or roasted with a little oil until they’ve softened and released their juices. Ratatouille can be served hot or cold or in a Disney movie prepped by the cutest team of rodents ever.
Traditionally, ratatouille is accompanied by a few slices of crusty bread to sop up its savory sauce. I wrapped my ratatouille with a pie crust and dressed it with an herbaceous lemon ricotta to create a one-pot dish that looks beautiful on the table and is easy to serve. It’s perfect for a garden party or spring brunch and its fresh, verdant flavors mixed with the buttery crunch of pie dough and tangy zing of citrusy ricotta is an absolutely delightful way to get your serving of veggies for the day.
I created that sabor borinqueño that I love so much in my Island Ratatouille Pie by using ingredients that aren’t usually found in the dish. I was moved to do so on my recent trip to Puerto Rico, when I worked with Chef Elvin Rosado, one of the Caribbean’s most celebrated culinarians. I had the honor of sharing his kitchen at Hotel Verdanza and as we looked at the fresh fruits and veggies that had come in for the day he divulged that the island’s crops had been decimated by Maria, but that 7 months later, some produce was finally available. He pointed out the gorgeous zucchini and squash he had purchased from local farmers. I ran my hands through some of the most beautiful herbs and microgreens I had ever seen. I wanted nothing more than to create a dish using the ingredients these farmers had worked so hard to bring to life after the devastation that had rocked Puerto Rico. And so my Island Ratatouille Pie was born.
Along with zucchini and summer squash, I use lots of cilantro, avocado, and chayote a type of squash that hails originally from Mexico and has become a staple on the Puerto Rican table. If you’ve never cooked with the pear-like chayote I’m sure you’ve at least spotted it at your grocery store and wondered what to do with it. This, my love, is the perfect recipe to sneak it into. Get some of that island flavor on your table this spring.
As I prepare this dish I think of my friends, family, and colleagues in Puerto Rico who aren’t giving up on our island. Seven months after Maria they are still fighting every day, through blackouts, water outages, and food shortages to create something beautiful for the world. They are, and always will be, my inspiration. My soundtrack for this preparation is Trio Bahia’s, En Primavera.
KitchenAid 7 Cup Food Processor or chef’s knife
8-inch cast iron skillet
single crust pie dough
1 green zucchini, sliced or diced
1 chayote, sliced or diced
1 yellow summer squash, sliced or diced
1 heirloom beefsteak tomato, sliced or diced
1 yellow onion, sliced or diced
1 red cubanelle or red bell pepper, seeds and membrane removed, sliced or diced
1/2 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup ricotta
1/2 cup grated parmesan
2 egg yolks, separated
juice and zest from one lemon
1/2 cup finely chopped summer herbs (cilantro, mint, chives, italian parsley)
salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
1 tablespoon cream
1 avocado, sliced, for garnish
juice and zest of 1 lime
- Preheat oven to 450.
- Mince garlic and steep in olive oil with red pepper flakes.
- Prep your veggies. I used the KitchenAid 7 Cup Food Processor to make quick work of it, but you can slice or dice by hand.
- Put all veggies in a bowl and salt and pepper to taste. Mix in the garlic oil.
- In a separate bowl, mix ricotta and parm cheeses with 1 yolk, lemon juice, zest, and herbs.
- Roll out the pie dough into a 14-inch circle and fold into a greased cast iron skillet letting the outer edges hang over the rim.
- Pierce the bottom of the dough with a fork five or six times.
- Spread ricotta over the bottom of the dough. Top with veggies.
- Fold edges of dough over veggies.
- Mix 2nd yolk with cream to make an egg wash.
- Brush the top crust with egg wash.
- Bake at 450 for 15 minutes, lower temp to 350 and bake for 30 minutes more.
- Top center of pie with avocado slices and garnish with cilantro leaves. Drizzle with lime juice and zest.