Did you see the Anthony Bourdain documentary about Jeremiah Tower Sunday night?

Back in the mid 1980s, my friend Nancy Hersch and I were invited to San Francisco for a culinary tour. Dinner the first evening was at STARS and it was amazing! 

One of the mains was fish as in a Monet garden - rings of colorful vegetables in a magnificent tower (!) ascending to a pristine white halibut and golden hollandaise crown. The total opposite was a lamb shank as forceful as Samson dominating the table. I am chagrined not to remember the third but it was equally impressive. One of my friends told the waiter that I had a restaurant called STARS in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

On my own the following day, I was astonished to find that STARS took a reservation for one for lunch. The waiter recognized me. I ordered ratatouille topped with grilled sweetbreads, and a half bottle of Far Niente. And Jeremiah Tower came to sit with me until my lunch was served asking about my STARS. My stars!  

Ratatouille, a cliché but so what?!

It was Ellen Adler (Stella's daughter, Brando's girlfriend, writer) who introduced me to ratatouille at a small dinner party in her New York apartment back in the '50s, more than sixty years ago! Olive oil, eggplant, zucchini, garlic, onions, peppers, tomatoes - sliced, diced, left in rustic chunks - cooked on top of the stove or baked from raw. I like to cook thinly sliced garlic in olive oil, remove when golden, then sauté and layer each of the components in a table-worthy casserole, which can wait to be baked until an hour before dinner. Salt, of course, a tiny pinch of red pepper flakes, parmesan won't be amiss. I think there was fresh basil in Jeremiah's version.