Thursday, September 22, 2011

Roasted Vegetable Ragu

Last Saturday night, I had a few friends over for a Slow Food $5 Challenge dinner!  Did you participate in the challenge?  It's a pretty simple idea: a movement to take back the value meal.  To teach people that good, clean, fair food does not have to break the bank.  Well, we proved it this weekend.  Here's what we had for $5 (or less) apiece:

Crostini with White Bean Dip
Spaghetti with Roasted Vegetable Ragu
Apple Pie with Maple Whipped Cream

There was enough food to feed 8, and we ate the leftovers for a couple of days.

Also, my friend brought the sweetest hostess gift with her!

Fresh herbs from her garden; thyme, basil, lemon thyme, thai basil, and mint!

Here's the price breakdown:

Olive oil, about 1 cup total, $3

1 baguette, $3
1 pound dried spaghetti, $1

White bean dip ($7.55):
1/2 pound runner cannellini beans, $2.25
carrots, celery, and onion to flavor the beans, about $1
2/3 cup toasted sliced almonds, $3
juice and zest of 1 lemon, $.30

Roasted vegetable ragu ($5):
3 pounds Roma tomatoes, $1.50
1 bunch purple heirloom carrots, $2
1 eggplant, $1
1 zucchini, $.50
1 yellow pepper, $1

Apple pie (8.25):
3 pounds Honeycrisp apples, $3.75
1 cup pastured organic butter, $2.50
Flour, sugar, spices; maybe $2

Grand Total: $27.80
Divided by 8 =  ...drumroll please...

$3.48 each!

WHAT?!  I am shocked.  Are you shocked that for (much) less than the price of a burger and fries at McDonald's, you can have a 3-course, locally-sourced, homemade, all-natural, healthy, DELICIOUS meal?!

Here, go cook it yourself.

Purple carrots!

Roasted Vegetable Ragu

I thought of this idea after I made this amazing fresh tomato sauce a couple of weeks ago.  It's a little bit heartier early autumn version of the same thing.

1 pound dried spaghetti

3 pounds Roma tomatoes
6 medium carrots, diced
1 eggplant
1 yellow bell pepper, cut into small chunks
1 small zucchini, quartered and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 cup olive oil
a handful of basil leaves
2 cloves garlic

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Toss carrots with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt and begin roasting.  Slice eggplant into 3/4-inch rounds and place onto a paper towel-lined cookie sheet.  Sprinkle generously with salt, and lay another layer of paper towels on top.  Press down on each slice, and then let them sit for at least 10 minutes to release some of their bitter juices.  Cube and add to the carrots after they have been roasting about 20 minutes, adding oil if needed to make sure that each piece is coated.  Roast eggplant and carrots another 20 minutes, and then add zucchini.  Toss, and roast another 10 minutes before adding peppers for the final 20 minutes.  After about an hour of roasting, vegetables should be golden and tender.  Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes.

Peel the tomatoes by scoring each one on the bottom, dipping them in boiling water for about 60 seconds, and then plunging them into an ice water bath.  The skins will slip right off.  Halve each tomato and seed them over a strainer set over a bowl (to collect the juice).  Crush the tomatoes using your hands (so fun!) and add them to a wide deep saucepan over low heat.  Discard the seeds, but reserve the juice (you can add it to the sauce if it gets too dry later on).  Cook the tomatoes, continuing to crush with a potato masher as they cook.  Cook for about 15 minutes before adding all the roasted vegetables. and then simmer over low heat for 30-40 minutes.

Place the olive oil, basil, and garlic in a small saucepan over low heat just until the oil starts to sizzle, then remove from heat and allow to steep until you're ready to use it, at least 10 minutes.

Cook pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente.  Drain, reserving about a cup of starchy pasta water.  Strain solids from olive oil and stir into sauce until incorporated.  Toss pasta and sauce together, adding a little pasta water if the sauce seems too dry.  Remove from heat and add one or two tablespoons of butter, and toss until melted.  Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and sliced basil.

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