Friday, July 15, 2011

Ratatouille's Ratatouille

Brie's first night home from camp... this is
what she wanted to make for dinner!
Do you remember seeing the film, Ratatouille, and salivating over the culinary creation, by the same name, that our little blue rodent friend prepared? As ironic as it seems that a "simple peasant dish" would make me drool with hungerlust, and that a children's cartoon could make me feel this way, when I chat with friends, they had the same reaction.

Brie and I found a Ratatouille recipe invented by a local New York foodie/chef/cookbook author, Deb Perleman, that best replicated what we saw in the movie, and we tried it out. We can say, in a word: delicious. It was mouthwatering-ly fragrant and easy to make, providing you have a mandoline (we bought a cheap one from Stop and Shop... works just fine).

And we served it atop couscous, just as the recipe recommended, but you can easily pair this with Italian or French bread. It was our main course, and simply satisfying.
Smitten Kitchen's Ratatouille

With our zucchini plants producing garden fresh squashes to enjoy during the remaining days of summer, we are inspired to bring forth the mandoline, again, and start slicing.

Here is the link to Smitten Kitchen, and I've reposted the recipe for our readers ease of use.

Lastly, for a child-friendly version, omit the eggplant and bell pepper (Brie finds both to be unpalatable at her tender age). Substitute thinly sliced tomatoes, and voila! A veggie recipe that any kid will gobble down with delight. Happy summer!

Ratatouille’s Ratatouille
As envisioned by Smitten Kitchen
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 cup tomato puree (such as Pomi)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small eggplant (my store sells these “Italian Eggplant” that are less than half the size of regular ones; it worked perfectly)
1 smallish zucchini
1 smallish yellow squash
1 longish red bell pepper
Few sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Few tablespoons soft goat cheese, for serving
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Pour tomato puree into bottom of an oval baking dish, approximately 10 inches across the long way. Drop the sliced garlic cloves and chopped onion into the sauce, stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil and season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.
Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. As carefully as you can, trim the ends off the red pepper and remove the core, leaving the edges intact, like a tube.
On a mandoline, adjustable-blade slicer or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.
Atop the tomato sauce, arrange slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. You may have a handful leftover that do not fit.
Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs with your fingertips, running them down the stem. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish.
Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside. (Tricky, I know, but the hardest thing about this.)
Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp. They should not be brown at the edges, and you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them.
Serve with a dab of soft goat cheese on top, alone, or with some crusty French bread, atop polenta, couscous, or your choice of grain.