This week has been quite a doozy. Monday morning I woke up with a crazy sinus headache and turned into a horrible mouth breather with a completely stuffed up nose. I’m pretty sure I jinxed myself last week when I boasted that for the first time in 3 years of working with kids, I hadn’t gotten sick.  I should’ve kept my mouth shut for 3 more weeks. Alas, I celebrated too early. It was probably that heel click I threw in at the end of my boast that did me in.

So for three days, I traveled no further than the distance between my bedroom and my couch, with a box of Kleenex as my trusty companion. Oh, I also watched a lot of Gilmore Girls. Like a LOT. We’ll leave it at that.

As typically occurs when one is sick and has zero appetite, all I really wanted to eat was soup. Actually I wanted a very specific soup – the matzo ball soup from New England Soup Factory. It’s soooo good, and I’m pretty sure it’s the cure for any cold. Unfortunately, Amazon Prime was not able to deliver me said soup via drone, so I needed a new plan.

I found this Ciambotta (translation: Italian vegetable stew) recipe stashed away in my list of ones to try and figured I would give it a shot. Plus it has a fancy name, so that means it has to be good. I also loved that it could be transformed into different dinners over the next few nights. Examples: strain the broth and use the veggies to make hash or omelette (so good by the way), or throw the veggies in some fresh pasta (also a winner). Really the options are endless. 

So next time you're feeling under the weather, or need a dinner that will make the rest of your week super easy and low maintenance, look no further. Mangia!

Ciambotta (Italian Vegetable Stew)
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated – makes 6 to 8 servings

For the Pestata:
Process all ingredients in a food processor until finely ground, about 1 minute, scraping sides as necessary. Set aside.

For the Ciambotta:
Toss eggplant with 1½ tsp salt in bowl. Line surface of a large plate with a double layer of coffee filters. Lightly spray the filters with vegetable oil spray. Spread eggplant in an even layer over coffee filters. Microwave eggplant, uncovered, until dry to the touch and slightly shriveled, 8 to 12 minutes, tossing once halfway through to ensure that the eggplant cooks evenly.

Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a Dutch oven over high heat until shimmering. Add eggplant, onion, and potatoes; cook, stirring frequently, until eggplant browns and surface of potatoes becomes translucent, about 2 minutes. Push vegetables to sides of pot; add 1 tbsp of oil and tomato paste to cleared area. Cook the paste, stirring frequently, until brown fond develops on bottom of pot, about 2 minutes. Add 2 c water and chopped tomatoes and juice, scraping up any browned bits, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and gently simmer until eggplant is completely broken down and potatoes are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tbsp of oil in a 12-inch skillet over high heat until smoking. Add zucchini, bell peppers, and ½ tsp salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are browned and tender, 10-12 minutes. Push vegetables to sides of skillet; add pestata and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir pestata into the vegetables and transfer vegetables to bowl. Turn off heat and add remaining ¼ c of water to skillet, scraping up browned bits.

 Remove pot from heat and stir reserved vegetables and water from skillet into vegetables in the Dutch oven. Cover the pot and let stand for 20 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Stir in basil and season with salt to taste.

Serve with shredded parmesan.



For the Pestata:
1/3 c chopped fresh basil
1/3 c fresh oregano leaves
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

For the Ciambotta:
12 oz eggplant, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 tbsp extra virgin-olive oil 
1 large onion, chopped
1 lb new potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 1/4 c water
1 (28 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained with juice reserved and chopped coarse (you can also cheat and buy diced tomatoes)
2 zucchini (8 oz each), seeded and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 red or yellow bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 c julienned fresh basil