Lucky me—on my Labor Day weekend jaunt to Washington, D.C. I got a behind-the-scenes tour of the House and Senate. Back in the day either I zoned out during Social Studies or décor wasn’t mentioned because I didn’t anticipate the magnificence of the decoration throughout, especially the elaborately tiled floors and painted ceilings. The Brumidi Corridors are particularly terrific as is the Old Senate Room which is a good bit more somber. My experience was marvelous but I’m pretty sure the public tours are also
When Julia Child was televised dropping a chicken on the floor, casually picking it up and plunking it on a platter, she won my permanent adoration. Her kitchen, in the National Museum of American History, was removed from her house in Cambridge, MA and given to the Smithsonian. It’s huge as is her batterie de
cuisine—more pots and pans than several ordinary households put together. The exhibit includes photos, recipes, kitchen tools and lots more—the First Ladies’ gowns pale beside it.
I continued the food motif at Eastern Market at lunch with a new friend. The Market, completed in 1873 had a fire in 2007 that damaged the main space but didn’t stop activities. There are vendors inside and out depending on days of the week as well as many restaurants and the complex hosts numerous community activities.
The morning of my departure I visited several of the big deal monuments exploring FDR, Martin Luther King, Vietnam and the Lincoln Memorial. FDR’s space is composed of several separate “rooms” with the third one featuring a statue of Roosevelt next to his dog, Fala who seems a little too big in relation to his master. The MLK memorial occupies less
ground space but is, to my mind, more imposing. Although I’d been in Washington before, this was the first time I had climbed the stairs to see Abe up close and personal. The steps are a little daunting but are well worth negotiating. Lincoln is larger than life in every sense.
Overall I found getting around DC confusing, odd considering I have no trouble in other cities worldwide. In Washington-speak, “three blocks away” is far. The Metro is dandy but stops are spread out so a hike to the station is often in order. When people describe Washington as a “walking city” they aren’t kidding.
In homage to the great Julia, this is–more or less–her recipe for ratatouille. It looks lot more difficult than it is.
Ratatouille Julia Child
1 lb. eggplant:
1 lb zucchini or summer squash
4-6 Tbsp. olive oil (love to think what Julia would have made of today’s EVO shorthand)
1 tsp. salt
2 cloves garlic, mashed
About 1 1/2 cups yellow onions, thinly sliced
Salt & pepper to taste
2 green peppers (about 1 cup) sliced
3 Tbls minced parsley
1 lb ripe tomatoes. Julia wants them peeled, seeded and juiced. I might forgo this. Just saying.
Note: Per Julia, you can use canned tomatoes. If so it’s about 1 1/2 cups.
Peel and cut eggplant into lengthwise slices about 3 inches long and 3/8-inches thick. Scrub summer squash and cut into pieces the same size as eggplant. Put veggies into a bowl, toss with 1 tsp salt and set aside for 30 minutes. Then drain slices and dry with a towel.
Put four tablespoons olive oil in skillet. Sauté summer squash and eggplant, one layer at a time, for about one minute until slightly browned. Transfer to a dish.
Cook pepper and onions in the same skillet, adding a little olive oil if needed, for 10 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and season the mixture with salt and pepper.
Slice tomatoes and layer them over pepper and onions, seasoning with salt and pepper. Cover skillet and let the vegetables cook for about 5 minutes on a low heat until the tomatoes start to render juice. Check the seasoning and raise the heat. Cook until juice evaporates entirely.
In a deep casserole put in 1/3 of the tomato mixture. Sprinkle minced parsley over tomatoes. Arrange half of the summer squash and eggplant on top. Layer the remaining tomatoes and parsley with remaining summer squash and eggplant trying to finish with tomatoes and parsley.
Cover casserole and put it on a low heat. Let everything simmer for about 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, raise the heat a little and cook everything for 15 minutes uncovered. Cook until all the juices evaporate. Throughout, be careful with heat so vegetables at the bottom don’t scorch. Serve hot or at room temperature (my preference.)
Like most of Julia’s recipes, this has several steps and ingredients but the end result is worth it. You can make a whole meal of ratatouille, embroider with cheese or serve as a side dish. It keeps well and seems to go on forever. Bon appétit!