Welcome to my first Foodie Friday. I’m a bit apprehensive about this topic, so please bear with me. As I have said before, I am not what I consider a good cook, and I’m definitely not a confident cook. However, Jenna the Wonder Girl and The Bibbed Wonder think this is a great idea. So, dear reader, here we go.
The first recipe I’d like to share with you is one I was introduced to in my early twenties. A bit of a back story, my grandmother’s best friend was an Avon lady. Ida B. would visit our house weekly, peddling make-up, perfume, skincare, and jewelry. Ida B. was always a bit sassy; she knew her mind and wasn’t afraid to share her opinions. She was independent, strong-willed, frugal, and wise. Ida B. was a part of my life for as long as I can remember. As a treat, she would give me the tiny little sample tubes of lipstick from her Avon kit once she was done with them. It was the best thing ever and made me feel special.
Fast forward to my early twenties. I struggled in my early twenties. I didn’t know who I was, what I wanted, who I wanted to be with, and I felt lost in general. Even after my grandmother had a stroke and was in a personal care facility, Ida B. continued to visit us here at the farm. One day, she took me aside, sat me down, and asked me what was going on inside that head of mine. I blurted it all out…I felt lost, I didn’t even know myself anymore, and I felt useless and unworthy. Ida B. never said a word about anything I shared with her. She took my hand, patted it, and said, “I’ll pick you up Sunday morning at 8:30, be dressed and ready. We have a date.” She did indeed show up at 8:30 on Sunday morning. No one ever disobeyed Ida B., so I was indeed dressed and ready. That morning, she took me to her church. She introduced me to her pastor and her friends. She held my hand through the sermon and invited me back to her house for lunch. In all the years I had known Ida B. I had never been to her home.
She lived in a humble row house in a small town just outside Indiana. Her home was simple, clean, and well maintained. One knew at first glance that a lot of pride and work had gone into this little home. We sat at her 1940’s era kitchen table and had a simple homemade lunch she had put in the oven before church. I have never forgotten that extraordinary woman, the advice she gave me, that day, and that meal. Our meal consisted of ratatouille, warm fresh bread, and strawberry buckle. I hope you enjoy Ida B.’s ratatouille and strawberry buckle recipe.
Ida B.’s Ratatouille
-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Small Eggplants
2 Yellow Squash
6 Roma Tomatoes
2 Green Peppers
1 Large Sweet Onion
Chop all vegetables into bite-size pieces. Saute in a large oven-proof pan ( I use a large cast-iron skillet) in two tablespoons of olive oil until crisp-tender. Set aside.
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
4 Cloves Garlic Minced
1 Small Onion Chopped Fine
1 Yellow or Red Bell Pepper Chopped Fine
1 28 Ounce Can Crushed Tomatoes
2 Tablespoons Fresh Basil
1 Tablespoon Sugar
Salt and Pepper To Taste
In a medium saucepan, saute garlic, onion, and red bell pepper in olive oil until garlic is brown and onion is translucent. Mix in crushed tomatoes, fresh basil, sugar, salt, and pepper. Simmer on low heat for ten minutes once it begins to bubble.
8-10 Fresh Basil Leaves
2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Thyme
2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Parsley
Salt and Pepper To Taste
Mix herbs in a small bowl. Once vegetables are sauteed, add herb mixture to vegetables and mix thoroughly.
Pour sauce over sauteed vegetables and herb seasoning. Mix thoroughly. Cover oven-proof skillet with foil and bake at 350 degrees for an hour. Serve as a hot stew with fresh warm bread.
Ratatouille is one of those meals where the flavor improves the longer it sits. Serve leftovers over pasta or as a side to scrambled eggs.
Ida B.’s Strawberry Buckle
-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13 glass baking dish, and set aside.
1 ¼ Cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
½ Cup Whole Milk
1 14-ounce Can Of Sweetened Condensed Milk
8 Tablespoons Melted Butter, Slightly Cooled
⅛ Teaspoon Salt
2 Teaspoons Baking Powder
1 Teaspoon Vanilla Extract
¼ Cup Granulated Sugar For Topping
Lightly grease a 9x13 baking pan. Mix the flour, milk, condensed milk, melted butter, salt, baking powder, and vanilla in a medium mixing bowl until smooth. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Scatter 2 cups of diced strawberries evenly over the batter. Sprinkle the sugar over the batter and strawberries.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a deep golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center come out clean.
Cool buckle for 10 minutes, then serve warm topped with vanilla ice cream.
I hope, dear reader, you enjoy Ida B.’s recipes. Ida was a fantastic cook, and my measurements are close guesses to her “add a handful of this and a pinch of that” approach. To me, that kind of cooking represents a talented cook. This meal represents comfort, warmth, friendship, and caring. Ida B. saw a lost and struggling young woman and took her under her wing. She was a woman before her time and a role model. I cherish the years I had with her.
As always, dear reader, stay safe, be smart, enjoy the recipes, and don’t be afraid to reach out to someone who is struggling. You never know the impact you will have on someone’s life. Your recipe may just become a representation of comfort and all that is good in this world. Have a wonderful weekend.