Sometimes I visit the more upscale grocery stores for culinary inspiration. I browse through the produce section, pick up few oranges or mangoes… I admire the variety of miniature desserts, each skillfully decorated with attention to the smallest detail. Typically, I struggle in the bakery section, having the hardest time choosing only ONE loaf of bread out of the great selection. Oh, the smells, textures, colors… It’s all like a symphony to me.

Today I visited EatZi’s. It is a busy place due to the rainy weather here in town today. Everyone was probably craving a warm meal for lunch. The chefs are smiling under their bushy mustaches with their rosy cheeks. The store manager is humming “Vincero” along Puccini’s magnificent voice coming out of the speakers. Steam is escaping large pots with boiling chicken soup and au-jus sauce. I am getting a whole wheat rustic loaf and a few eggplants, zucchini and beautiful ripe tomatoes to make ratatouille.

A group of Hispanic and rather temperamental ladies is meeting for lunch, greeting each other with excitement. An Italian couple is conversing by the salad bar, making me wonder what they are talking about. Are they tourists, or Immigrants visiting their regular lunch place? I glanced at the wooden wine boxes with Sonoma County Logo, remembering my recent trip to California. I finally sit down with a cup of coffee to enjoy the view of the rainy parking lot and people watch. A man with a round waist is joyfully un-wrapping his sandwich, an older couple enjoying their soup and making plans for their daughter’s birthday. There is a little girl skipping around puddles, holding her mom’s hand.

There is something incredible about the power good food has! How can anybody be unhappy around this all? They sell chocolate mustaches, chocolate cowboy boots, and even little chocolate set in the shape of a little compact mirror and lipstick!

Learn to slow down when grocery shopping and appreciate good food. Food preparation can be fabulous thing and the process can make us feel fabulous as well. You don’t have to throw a huge and expensive party. Instead, invite your close friends and prepare something simple. Be smart in the way you prepare it and the way you present it. You will discover that the care you invest will come back multiplied. (And you may instantly become popular too!)

                                             Ratatouille

Ingredients:

1 eggplant

1 yellow zucchini

1 green squash

2 large tomatoes

1 red onion

1 yellow bell pepper

3 table spoons of olive oil

Salt & pepper

*Feeds 5 people

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Slice all of the vegetables. Drizzle olive oil on the bottom of a baking dish and start placing slices of vegetables in a row, trying to follow a pattern to create a rainbow-like looking dish. Once the entire dish is filled with slices of vegetables, sprinkle salt and pepper on top and drizzle a little more olive oil on top. Bake for 40-60 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Serve as a side dish or as a full meal with your favorite bread. You won’t believe how flavorful this dish is! Add a glass of wine, and you may suddenly feel transported to French countryside without the need of leaving your own kitchen.

photo credit / Duke Morse Photography

 

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