As it would be no surprise to anyone, I have volumes of recipe books, not to mention my recent addition of a NYT Cooking subscription. But it’s my wooden recipe box of 45+ years filled with dog-eared, ink smeared, and handwritten index cards that hold a lot of summer memories.
Growing up on a farm, fresh produce in the summer didn’t come from a farmer’s market or a supermarket, but our own big garden. It was an economic reality and just “something you did.” Despite the fact that my parents could never eat all the tomatoes, corn and beans (or zucchini) they grew years after my brother and I were gone, the garden was still the link to what was on the table. So, the handwritten recipes from my mother in my recipe box still reflect some of those same summer “specials” on my table.
I was recently preparing one of my mother’s recipes, Beef Ratatouille Pie, when it hit me – I only prepare this dish when the “summer bounty” of vegetables is at its peak, despite the fact vegetables are available year-round. Some habits just don’t change! But this recipe does keep summer alive as it makes two 9-inch pies; one to enjoy now and one to freeze for a summer memory on a cold night!
Beef Ratatouille Pie transforms a traditional side dish into an entrée with the addition of ground beef and Swiss cheese. While it’s an easy recipe to assemble, it does take a little time to slice and dice the vegetables prior to the final preparation. Often, I prepare the vegetables in advance, dividing into 3 bowls as per the recipe additions (onions and garlic in one; eggplant, zucchini and peppers in another; and mushrooms and tomato in a third), making it a simple process to prepare the filling.
I’m sure this recipe was not original to my mother, but my only resource is the index card! I hope you enjoy!
BEEF RATATOUILLE PIE
Makes two 9-inch pies
2 9” pie crusts, baked
2 lbs ground lean beef
2-3 Tablespoons canola or olive oil
I cup chopped onion
2 large garlic cloves, minced
4 cups diced eggplant, peeled and cut ½” cubes
2 medium green or red peppers, cut into thin stripes
2 cups sliced mushrooms
2 cups sliced thinly sliced zucchini
2 cups thin sliced tomato wedges, approximately 2-3 whole depending on size
2 teaspoon basil or Italian seasonings
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
3 cups shredded Swiss cheese
Bake pie crusts per recipe or package directions. Cool slightly before sprinkling the cheese on the bottom crust.
1. Brown ground beef in large 10” skillet on medium-to-medium high heat until pink disappears. Once browned, remove from the skillet. Wipe excess grease.
2. Add oil of choice as needed. Sauté garlic and onions until soft and translucent. Add the eggplant, zucchini and pepper mixture, stirring constantly for 12-15 minutes on medium-to-medium high heat until the vegetables are soft.
3. Gradually add the cooked ground beef to the vegetable mixture, blending until vegetables are mixed with the ground beef. Add basil, salt and pepper (and any other fresh or dried herbs of choice) and stir.
4. Fold in mushrooms and tomatoes and cook an additional 2-3 minutes.
5. To prepare each pie, ladle mixture evenly between the two 9” dishes into the cheese lined crust. Finish the dish with 1 cup of Swiss cheese sprinkled on the top prior to baking. (If freezing, hold the cheese until prior to baking).
6. Bake 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until an internal temperature of 145 degrees is achieved. Oven time will depend if dish has been refrigerated prior to baking. For frozen product, thaw completely in refrigerator 24-48 hours prior to baking. Bring to room temperature and bake at 375 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until internal temperature is reached.
Hack: I use a pie crust ring to avoid further browning of crust during the heating process.