Last week I discussed Red’s unique sense of nurturing, today I’m going to talk about her ingenuity.
One thing about Red that is so distinctive is that she may be caged, but she can never be owned. The woman has a way of taking lemons and making whatever she damn well pleases, no matter how improbable. Her family restaurant gets taken over by the mob, she uses her wits to gain their trust and takes them over. Red gets caught and sent to prison, she takes over the kitchen and creates a smuggling empire through her food shipments. She gets caught again and loses the kitchen, she takes over the garden and smuggles goods through the drainage pipe. Red is not just clever, to quote from another show, Blackadder, she is “as cunning as a fox who’s just been appointed Professor of Cunning at Oxford University.”
I will reiterate that Red loves two things above all – her family and her food. Her food is not just her love, it’s her identity. A cook belongs in the kitchen and when it is taken away from her, she wilts. Her hair color fades. Her spirits wane. She grows more more irritable and despondent. Even when she gets the kitchen back (you’ll see how in Season 3), her joy is short lived as soon as the prison forces her to serve factory-produced, boil-in-a-bag slop. She goes out of her way at every turn saying “I did not cook this”, over and over, until she realizes that she is now the only one in charge of establishing her identity. A good chef always takes ownership of the food coming from the kitchen, even when she is not the one who messed it up in the first place.
Thanks once again to her creativity and unusual resources, she begins to serve from-scratch tasting menus centered around produce in Lichfield’s garden. Funny how she twice finds a solution at the source of food, from the earth itself. The first thing she makes is ratatouille.
**End Spoiler Alert**
I will admit I’ve made ratatouille (or at least the confit byaldi version popularized by the Disney film Ratatouille) in the past and have not really liked the results. I’ve always found the combination of tomato sauce with summer squash to be far too watery and acidic. However, the key is to think like Red and approach the task with a simple, but very unexpected direction. So today, we’ll be taking a slightly different take on traditional ratatouille. Have any borscht left over from last week’s recipe? If not, go make some, you can never have enough! With the velvety, beet-heavy taste of borscht, you’ll find this version of this French peasant dish sweeter, and in my opinion, much more satisfying.
- For uniform slices, a mandoline works wonders.
- Serve with fresh bread to sop up any left over sauce on your plate.
Red's Russian-Style Ratatouille
- 11/2 -2 cups Leftover Borscht, cooled
- 1/4 head of cabbage, chopped
- 1 medium vidalia or yellow onion, sliced into thin strips
- 2 Tbsp minced garlic
- 1 medium yellow squash and 1 medium zucchini, sliced.
- 1 tomato, sliced
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- grated parmesan cheese
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cook cabbage with some salt, pepper and olive oil in a skillet on medium heat until slightly crispy.
- Spoon and spread out a layer of borscht on bottom of a medium-sized casserole dish. Layer cabbage on top.
- Cook onions and garlic in skillet with olive oil until translucent.
- Layer onions and garlic on top of cabbage, add another layer of borscht.
- Layer zucchini and squash, arrange however you like. Season and drizzle with salt, pepper and borscht.
- Top with tomato slices, salt, olive oil and parmesan cheese.
- Bake in oven 1 hour. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.