Polenta and spring vegetable ratatouille with pattypan squash

Am I the only one who buys certain vegetables because they look good? I mean, c'mon, look at these pattypan squashes (picture below) don't they look like they must have been planted by seeds from some alien ships years back! Pattypan squash is a type of summer squash. I started seeing them very recently (within the last week or two) at our farmer's markets. They caught my attention instantly. First week I figured I had no idea what to do with them so I resisted the impulse of buying them. Next week I still hadn't done my homework but now I was more worried - what if the squashes are like green garlic available just for a week or two and then gone! So I quickly add some to my basket thinking I'll figure out what to do with them later.

Today nearly a week later I am pondering the usual what to make for lunch question. End of the week and there isn't much of a choice when I suddenly remember these pattypan squashes sitting and waiting nicely in the far back edge of the crisper. Suddenly feeling guilty about my impulse buying I decided to make a meal entirely out of the pantry and fridge to somehow make things right in the broader global equation. Partly I have been motivated to clean the fridge ever since Nupur announced the blog-bites 4 - to cook with something lurking in the kitchen; and this seemed like a perfect recipe. I googled for some ratatouille recipes and finally adapted this one from Simply Recipes.

This is either a clean your pantry meal or a perfect farmer's market meal. You can pick whatever assortment of vegetables and herbs that suit your fancy at the market and make a very tasty ratatouille out of them! When the ingredients are fresh and the preparation is simple, the meal is sure to taste great! 

Source: Inspired from this Mark Bittman recipe
1C medium grind cornmeal
4C water
olive oil
salt & pepper

Bring water to boil. Then gradually add cornmeal whisking continuously. Add enough salt. Return the mixture to boil. Reduce heat to barely simmer and simmer stirring constantly for about ~30 mins or until the cornmeal tastes cooked through. Remove from heat. Add hearty slugs of olive oil and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately.

Spring vegetable ratatouille with pattypan squash
Source: heavily adapted from this
3 cloves garlic - minced
1/2 large onion - chopped
1 red bell pepper - chopped
4 small pattypan squash - chopped into bite size pieces
3 sticks of celery - chopped
3 ripe tomatoes - chopped
2Tbsp capers (or more or less depending on taste)
1C water or vegetable broth
Handful of fresh basil - chopped into ribbons
1Tbsp freshly chopped thyme
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

Chop all the vegetables including patty-pan squash into similar size pieces. Heat olive oil in a wide pan over medium heat. Add minced garlic and saute for a couple of minutes. Add chopped onions and saute until the onions are tender (couple of mins). Add bell pepper, squash, celery, tomatoes and 1C water. Cover and let cook over medium heat for 10-15 mins.
(All the vegetables added - before cooking)
Add capers, fresh herbs, salt & pepper. Taste and adjust the seasonings per taste. Serve over warm polenta.

This ratatouille goes straight to BB4 hosted at One Hot Stove.
This month's book club pick was a two-year anniversary special for our this book makes me cook book-club. As a second anniversary treat we got to read any of the wonderful Fannie Flagg books. I was excited because I have heard a lot about Fannie Flagg books but had never read one. Whenever I have to pick one book of an unknown author I always pick the one which has most/best Amazon.com reviews. Its a guarantee of some sort that you get to read the best work of the author. Keeping with that tradition I picked up Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle-top Cafe

The story is set in a small railroad town in the southern US spanned across multiple decades. One of the main things you notice as soon as you start reading this book is the ability of the author to effortlessly travel between multiple threads spanned across many decades without loosing the reader. There is one thread of Idgie and Ruth, two women who own the local Whistle-top cafe serving delicious southern homemade food; and then there is another thread many decades forward of Ninny and Evelyn - a woman in a retirement center and another deep down in her mid-life crisis. The story-line is good and it keeps you engaged. The middle parts of the book do drag on for a while but it picks up well towards the end where all the threads start to come together and pieces start to fall into places. The book is good in giving you that small-town folksy feeling where neighbors still care about each and everyone minds into everyone else's business in a very friendly caring sort of way interlaced with the accounts of the awesome tasty southern food! The book even has some of the recipes from the cook character which I wanted to make but shied away after seeing the butter content! Overall a good read; I can't say it lived upto my expectations from the very first Fannie Flagg book but it sure was a refreshing read.