So clearly I've been on a Mediterranean kick lately, with a cleavers pesto last week (I've been enjoying the left-overs since), and a thistle Greek salad the other day. So when I was looking at an ENORMOUS haul of greenbriar shoots, it's really no surprise that my mind turned to ratatouille.
Ratatouille is a French dish, usually served in the summer because it's loaded with summer veggies: summer squash (zucchini/yellow squash), eggplant, and tomatoes. But it comes from the Provonce region, on the Mediterranean, where the cities of Marseille and Nice are located. It's a hearty, rustic stew, that just happens to be vegan, low carb, low calorie, low fat, dairy free, gluten-free and paleo; though it's often served with bread, you could also eat it as a side dish for meat, or over polenta or pasta.
The spirit of ratatouille is to make a healthy meal out of what's seasonally available, and while tomatoes aren't exactly in season, I did have a ton of spring greenbriar, so I decided to go for it. This dish involves caramelizing the onions, and since I enjoyed the greenbriar caramelized as a pizza topping last year, I thought this would be a slam dunk! It was fantastic, even my husband liked it, and he doesn't like REGULAR ratatouille! Best of all, the greenbriar cooks a lot faster than the traditional eggplant, turning an hour-long prep into a meal on your table in 30 minutes!
|Thick and juicy, but still tender and bendable, |
these greenbriars are at the perfect stage for eating.
Greenbriars, aka Similax species, are only edible in the early to mid-spring, because it's the young, new growth you eat. The shoots and young leaves are quite tasty, and because of some sugars in them, they also caramelize beautifully. They are fairly easy to ID, I wouldn't quite say beginner level, but definitely for a slightly experienced novice. Please check out my post on how to ID greenbriars.
30 minute greenbriar ratatouilleserves 4-5 as a side, 2-3 as a main course
6 cups young greenbriar tips, cut to about 1-2" long pieces OR
2 cups young greenbrair tips and1 large zuchinni (green squash), cubed
6 roma or plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 large sweet yellow or white onion, diced
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. oregano
1/4 cup of water
Kosher or sea salt
Fresh black pepper
1. Heat about 2 tbs. of olive oil in a large (I used a 5 quart) sauté pan, over medium high heat. When the oil has come to temperature, add in your diced onion, sprinkle with salt, and cook until softened and slightly translucent, about 3 minutes. Add in your greenbriar and garlic, and a drizzle more olive oil, if needed. Continue to sauté, stirring occasionally, for about 5-7 minutes, or until slightly softened.
2. If you are using zuchinni, add it in now, and sprinkle with salt. Sauté for 5 minutes. If you are omitting the squash, continue to step 3.
3. Add in your diced tomatoes, 1/4 cup water, dried herbs and bay leaf, sprinkle with more salt, and increase heat to high. Sauté and stir, for about 5 minutes, as the tomatoes soften and break down somewhat.
4. Add in your tomato paste, reduce heat to medium-high, and sauté for another 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt and pepper, if needed. Stir, remove from heat, and serve. Tastes great with crusty bread or as a side-dish to meat!