Sustainable Sustenance

Gorgeous local veg for Ratatouille

Last night I oversaw a community dinner for 60. The goal was to make it locavore and vegan. Sized up what was available at the farmers’ market and decided on Ratatouille to take advantage of the very last zucchini and to bid farewell to summer. Main components are zucchini, eggplant and tomatoes, with optional bell peppers. No more local basil, so used sage & parsley instead. We added garbanzo beans for protein and bulk.

To round out the menu, I added roast purple fingerlings & sweet potatoes, a crunchy cabbage slaw with fresh dill, and organic brown rice. Appetizers were fresh baby carrots, an olive tapenade with local parsley & onions and bread from Wuollet’s Bakery. The dinner, you will note, was dairy-free and gluten-free with the exception of bread.

OK, the desserts — ice cream sundaes, silky vegan chocolate pudding and organic oranges — were not locally sourced except for the blueberry sauce (picked this summer from Rush River Produce of Maidenrock, WI, my favorite blueberry farm.) The chocolate pudding is a mix by Mori-Nu, makers of my favorite silken tofu, which I also use in many creamy vegan salad dressings and dips. See Recipes and scroll down for a dill dip. Mori-Nu is the tofu in a vacuum-packed box, which means you can stock it in your pantry and save room in the frig. This low-fat pudding is incredibly easy to make, has a lovely silky smooth texture and is naturally sweetened. I like the taste, which is not overly sugary. You can find both Mori-Nu tofu and the pudding mix at the co-op.


Ratatouille is easy to make, either on the stove or in the oven. If making small quantities, I’ll simmer it on the stove, and if large quantities, I will roast. I have been including this dish in private cooking lessons this summer, to demonstrate how easy it is to cook a versatile vegetable-based dish. You can eat as an entree or side; add it to pasta sauces; throw it in scrambled eggs, omelets or quiche; or turn it into fried rice or a casserole.

“Oversaw” means I planned the menu, shopped, brought seasonings & stock ingredients, and then told wonderful volunteer sous-chefs what to do — which was mainly to chop the 50 lbs of veg I had purchased that morning. I do these community dinners fairly frequently, mostly at First Universalist Church.

Btw the way chef and urban farms advocate Nancy said the purple cabbage was the sweetest she’d ever tasted! It was from Chris Gamm of Reimann Farms (St Francis, MN).


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