Smile Politely

Refrigerator amnesty

It happens. We get busy with work or activities and suddenly all those good intentions that we had about shopping at the farmers market and eating more fruits and vegetables fall by the wayside.

As the takeout containers start to multiply in the cupboard and recycling bin, the zucchini and tomatoes are sporting spots and the eggplant looks like it is becoming a candidate for Viagra.

Now is not the time to feel guilty, it’s time to sharpen those knives and declare Refrigerator Amnesty. Never mind what you were going to make with all that produce, the fact is that now you have to make something, anything or you are going to instead be playing refrigerator roulette which has far less pleasant consequences.



Ratatouille is one of the best ways to use up a bunch of produce all at once. Once you’ve made it, you can put it over pasta or use it for sandwich fillings. You can also mix it with some rice and possibly some ground meat or TVP as a filling for stuffed peppers, squash, or eggplants. In the classic French version, the vegetables are sautéed, layered into a casserole, and baked so that their flavors meld. Ratatouille is one of those great dishes that is even better the second or third day.

But, what if you don’t have hours to sauté and stew? What if you have friends coming over in a few hours not a few days?

Ratatouille Tart

Ratatouille is great because of the combination of eggplant, tomato, onion, squash, and herbs. And since you are taking the ingredients of ratatouille and making a tart instead of the classic dish, you can use the extra time to get rid of any really disgusting stuff from your fridge before your friends arrive. You don’t even need to know how to make pie crust for this tart, you just need to be able to open a box of phyllo dough.

To begin, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Trimming away any bad spots, peel eggplant and dice into ½-inch dice. Sprinkle with salt and place in a bowl or colander while you chop the rest of the produce. The salt will draw out the moisture from the eggplant so you don’t end up with a soggy tart. Dice zucchini and onion into similar sized pieces and place them in a separate bowl. You’ll want to have enough vegetables to cover a twelve-inch circle with a single layer.

Again, trim away any bad spots, core and cut the tomatoes in half horizontally. Squeeze out seeds and juice. Dice into ½-inch pieces into a final bowl. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. When the oil is hot, drain the eggplant and add it to the pan. When the eggplant begins to get a little color, add the squash and onion. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Add a pinch of fresh or dried basil or thyme if you have it. Saute until onions are golden. Add tomatoes. When the tomatoes are heated through, add two ounces of goat cheese. Or add two tablespoons of flour and a cup of milk. Cook until thickened. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly, adding any seasoning as necessary.

Next open the phyllo dough. You’ll want to use about half the package. Wrap the unused half tightly to keep it from drying out in your fridge. Layer the phyllo dough, making an x with two sheets. Then cross the x with another x, and another. Drizzle the phyllo with a couple of teaspoons of olive oil, using a spatula or your fingers to spread it over the dough. Add another layer and more oil. Add a final layer, reserving one sheet. Pour the filling into the center of the phyllo and spread into a 12-inch circle. Place the reserved sheet over the filling. Bring the sides of the dough toward the center to form the tart, pleating and tucking them as necessary. Brush the tart with olive oil with your fingers. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden in the lower third of the oven. Allow to cool slightly. Cut into wedges with a sharp knife and serve.

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