Springtime for Ratatouille recipe

Ratatouille recipe – woke up last week just in time to discover that gloomy winter weather has given way to clear blue skies, temperature in the 50s and crisp-smelling spring air. I had the day off, so I flung both the window and the balcony open to let in some fresh, clean air and chased a few dust bunnies around my apartment before giving up and opting to cook something springy and cheerful instead. Donning my jeans with gaping holes in both knees, I ran to the neighborhood vegetable pusher to see what I could round up for a light and tasty dinner (it’s time to start shedding all those winter fat deposits!) It was probably my imagination, but even the vegetables looked spruced up for springtime – the previously droopy basil looked a little perkier, and the tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini seemed firmer and crisper.

After watching Julie & Julia last month, I downloaded a copy of Julia Child’s My Life in France, a memoir about her time in Paris and Marseille and the creation of her famous 700+ page book Mastering the Art of French Cooking. On my way to the store, I browsed for vegetable recipes a-la Julia Child, and came up with ratatouille. I’ve been itching to make it since watching Pixar’s adorable animation, and couldn’t think of a more pefect springtime dish. Of course, it needed to look exactly like it did in the animation, so instead of going with Julia’s recipe I found another one from my beloved Smitten Kitchen. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier that a fellow food writer also happened to be a slight dork and invented a ratatouille recipe exactly as it was pictured in the cartoon. Alors, after stocking up with zucchini, yellow squash, baby eggplant, onions, tomato sauce, two bunches of daffodils and a bottle of Pouilly-Fume (I can’t eat French food without splurging on a bottle of delicious French wine!) I frollicked home and made the following:

prep-for-oven

Ratatouille recipe invented by Smitten Kitchen

This is the perfect springtime recipe! It combines the wonderful flavors of zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, tomato, thyme and herbes de Provence into a flavor combination that is guaranteed to melt in your mouth in a symphony of delight and put a smile on your face, just like it did for that mean ole’ food critic Anton Ego! It’s not heavily spiced or salted, to let the vegetable flavors combine and stand out on their own. It’s really perfect and ingenious and is my new favorite vegetable dish (thank you thank you thank you SK!). It’s gorgeous and pretty easy to make, and can either stand on its own or be served as a side dish to a number of meats and fish. Julia Child suggests serving it with a robust meat dish, like a pot-au-feu, but I served it as a side dish to cod fish steamed in parchment paper and found that it worked wonderfully. If served on its own, it would be delicious with a baguette and some brie, or served over rice or cous-cous (as pictured in Smitten Kitchen’s blog). The whole thing took me about an hour, mainly because I don’t have a mandolin so it took me 15 minutes just to make the vegetable slices and arrange them on a pie dish. The only change I made to SK’s recipe was to add some herbes de Provence to the dish – I find that they add a nicer fragrance to the finished ratatouille than just using fresh thyme.

Ingredients:

1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1 cup strained tomatoes (I agree with SK, Pomi does great – ingredients: tomatoes. That’s what I like to see!!)
1 small eggplant (I used two baby eggplants, but you could also use 1 Italian eggplant)
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow squash
1 long red bell pepper (try to find a thin one)
1 tsp fresh thyme
1/2 tsp herbes de Provence
2 tsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

You will also need a round of parchment paper cut to cover your cookware and a round or oval baking container such as a casserole or pie dish. SK used a ceramic oval baking dish, while I used a non-stick metal pie pan, which worked just fine for me.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prep the veggies – slice the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into small round slices, as thinly as possible, about 1/16 of an inch. This can be accomplished by using a mandolin, a food processor or a very sharp knife. Set aside.

Pour the strained tomatoes into your cookware of choice, add chopped onion, garlic slivers and 1 tsp of olive oil. Salt & pepper to taste and mix to combine.

 

Arrange the vegetables in a circle, alternating eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and pepper. Make sure the vegetables overlap, but leave a small sliver of each vegetable showing, for color and presentation. Go around the dish placing them snug until you have no more room left. Sprinkle with thyme and herbes de Provence, add more salt & pepper if you like and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tsp of olive oil. Place parchment round snugly on top of the veggies (I make a small strip of foil, place it on top of the parchment and secure to the sides of the dish to keep the parchment from curling up in the hot oven).

 

Place your ratatouille in the oven for about 45-55 minutes, or until the vegetables are visibly cooked and soft, but not completely limp or browned. The tomato sauce will be bubbling up around them. Pull out of the oven, remove the parchment et voila – Bon Appetit! You can serve them on their own, or as SK suggests, with a dollop of softened goat cheese. While I bought the goat cheese, I forgot to put it on top so we enjoyed the vegetables on their own. I made the recipe again two days later, much to the pleasure of both myself and the bf. And if you’re like me, make it a double-whammy and re-watch Ratatouille. And why not? Who cares if you already know how the movie ends – Remi is still really freakin’ cute! see also : Feel Good Food: Russian Beet Salad recipe

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