Tag Archives: Ragout

Eggplant and Tomato Ragout over Quinoa Cakes

I’ve been trying to eat less meat during the week, meaning Monday – Thursday (hilarious, considering a very recent post of mine was a burger with bacon and eggs).  It’s pretty easy to do right now while fresh veggies are overflowing and perfectly ripe and gorgeous.  It’s certainly possible I’ll be back to being a daily flesh eater as soon as local produce goes scarce, but I have been feeling fairly conflicted about meat recently.  I’m reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals.  If you ever have an inkling of going vegetarian, but just not sure if you can do it, DON’T read this book (because you will feel incredibly guilty every time you subsequently eat meat. And CERTAINLY DON’T watch Food, Inc.) Every page makes me feel worse and worse about the huge problems associated with factory farms – and there are MANY – not just for the animal, but for humans, the environment, and even the economy.  The best I can see doing – since realistically I’m too lazy to ever become a “real” vegetarian – is t0 try to reduce my consumption and to purchase all meat and eggs from local producers that utilize a more sustainable, humane farming system.  And I am lucky enough to be in an area where this is feasible. Doing this certainly is not cheaper, but my true belief is that it is the right thing to do and I hope soon others will realize this. (Needless to say, I was being facetious and you really SHOULD read Eating Animals and watch Food, Inc.)

I put on so much ragout you can barely see my cakes!

Eggplant and Tomato Ragout with Feta over Quinoa Cakes

Serves 2. Adapted from Epicurious.com

For Quinoa Cakes

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 4 to 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided

For Eggplant and Tomato Ragout

  • 1 large eggplant, diced
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 2 roasted red peppers (I used jarred ones), chopped
  • 1/4 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 cup feta, crumbled

To make quinoa cakes:
Bring water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil in a heavy medium saucepan.

Stir quinoa into boiling water and return to a boil, then simmer, covered, until quinoa is dry and water is absorbed, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl and cool, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes, then stir in a beaten egg.

Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap and lightly brush with oil. Lightly oil a 1-cup dry-ingredient measure. Lightly fill enough quinoa into measure with a rubber spatula or spoon to fill it two-thirds full. Then, pack down into cup (will only be about 1/4 full then). Unmold onto baking sheet and gently pat quinoa into a 4-inch-wide patty with spatula. (You may have to kinda slam the cup onto the pan to get them to kind of “pop out”.) Make 3 more quinoa cakes, brushing measure with oil each time. Chill cakes, uncovered, at least 15 minutes.

In the meantime, make the ragout.

Blanch tomatoes in order to remove skin.  To do this, cut out core, and score a small X into bottom of tomato with a knife. Submerge into a pot of boiling water for about 10-15 seconds. Remove from water and put into ice bath. When tomatoes are cool enough to handle, remove from water and peel off skin, starting wit the X area.  Then, roughly chop tomatoes.

In a large saute pan, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Add eggplant and onion.  Season with some salt and pepper.  Let cook about 10 minutes.  Add wine and let cook down until almost gone.  Add tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and broth.  Season again as needed.  Let cook for another 10 minutes to let juices reduce and flavors come together.  Add herbs and let cook another minute or two.

To cook the quinoa cakes:
Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Carefully add quinoa cakes and cook, turning once carefully and adding remaining 2 to 3 tablespoons oil, until crisp and golden, 8 to 10 minutes total (pat cakes to reshape with cleaned rubber spatula while cooking if necessary). Transfer to plates.  Top with ragout and crumbled feta.

My quinoa cakes ready to be put on a plate to eat


Ragout vs Ragu

I have had multiple people ask me the difference between Ragout and Ragu, and I have more or less always provided this answer: Ragout, pronounced the same as Ragu (even though in my head I say it how it looks – “rag – out”) is French and is more of a stew of sorts, often times bulked up with veggies or beans.  Ragu is more of a sauce, is Italian, and usually tomato based.

But, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to look it up to see if I was actually directing people correctly or just talking out of my ass.  Per the food dictionary on Epicurious, definitions are:

Ragout [ra-GOO] – A derivative of the French verb ragoûter , meaning “to stimulate the appetite,” ragoût is a thick, rich, well-seasoned stew of meat, poultry or fish that can be made with or without vegetables.

Ragu [ra-GOO, rah-GOO] – A staple of northern Italy’s Bologna, ragu is a meat sauce that is typically served with pasta. Though different than the French RAGOUT, both are derived from the verb ragoûter , which means “to stimulate the appetite.” Ragu usually contains ground beef, tomatoes, onions, celery, carrots, white wine and seasonings.

Ummm….I’ll call my answer close enough!  But, reading about the merits and differences of Ragu/Ragout made me realize I should make one or the other as soon as possible.  Thus, Sunday’s dinner was Pork Chops with Polenta finished with  a Mushroom Ragout.  Now, one area where I waver on how I feel is whether Ragouts should have cream or no.  My answer inevitably comes down to how I happen to feel as I’m cooking the dish and what ingredients I have on hand.  Turn’s out, we just happened to have cream in the fridge!

Pork Chops with Polenta and Mushroom Ragout

Serves 4


  • 1  pound assorted Mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small Onion, diced
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh Thyme, chopped
  • ½ Cup Madeira
  • 2/3 cup Chicken Broth
  • ½ cup Heavy Cream
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh Parsley, chopped

Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat.  Once butter has melted, add onions.  Saute for about 3-4 minutes, or until onions start to soften.  Salt onions as they cook

Add mushrooms to skillet.  If necessary, add mushrooms to pot in several additions.  As mushrooms cook down, season with salt and pepper.  Cook about 4-5 minutes.

Once mushrooms are cooked down, add garlic and thyme to pan and cook a minute or two.

Add Madeira and cook down until only about a tablespoon of liquid remains.

Add broth and cook down until liquid is reduced by half.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as necessary.

Add cream and reduce until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.  Add parsley and taste for a final seasoning.  Set aside until ready to serve.  The ragout can be heated up again before serving if necessary


  • 1 cup Cornmeal
  • 3 cups Water
  • 1 cup Whole Milk
  • 1/2 cup Corn (fresh or frozen) – optional
  • 2 Tablespoons Butter

Bring water and milk to a boil in a  sauce pot and season with some salt.  SLOWLY whisk in cornmeal and whisk CONSTANTLY to avoid lumps. Once cornmeal is incorporated, you can relax on the stirring, and switch to a wooden spoon if you prefer

If I’m feeling fancy, or if corn is in season and tastes wonderful, I’ll take the corn and do just a quick chop of it in a food processor and then throw it into the polenta as it’s cooking.  The corn “juice” provides good flavor, and the kernels that did not end up pureed add great texture.

Add butter to polenta and stir in until meted.  Taste to see if seasoning needs adjusted

pork chops

  • 4 bone-in Pork Chops, 6-8 ounces each
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 Tablespoon Butter

Season pork chops on both sides generously with salt and pepper.  Heat skillet medium high heat.  Once skillet is hot, add olive oil.  Once olive oil is hot, add chops.  Sear on one side about 3-4 minutes, or until nicely browned and turn over.

Cut butter into 4 pieces and place one nub of butter on each chop.  Place skillet with chops in oven and cook about 6-8 minutes for medium.  Let chops rest 3-5 minutes once removed from oven.

To serve, place some polenta on center of plate.  Rest pork chop against polenta, and finish with a couple spoonfuls of Ragout.


Pork Chop with Polenta and Mushroom Ragout


For the assorted mushrooms, I used Portabello, Shitake, and Button.  Use what you have/can find – there is no hard and fast rule

As you are cooking the mushrooms, if your pan becomes very dry and you feel like everything is sticking, throw in another tablespoon of butter.

If you don’t have Madeira on hand, feel free to substitute white wine.

For the polenta, you can sub broth for the water if you prefer.  Also, you can use all water or stock and no milk if you prefer.

I cook my pork chops in a cast iron pan because I think it helps to give them a beautiful sear.

We had our dinner with the 2006 Epiphany Gypsy. We had a high-end Petite Syrah from this winery a few years ago and went crazy over it, but had not been able to find it since.  Just recently, we found this more “budget-friendly” offering from them, and we were not disappointed when we opened it with out meal.