by / Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Ratatouille (...summer in a dish) #CookforJulia

Yesterday, the kids had Julia Child to thank for what quickly (and somewhat surprisingly) became their new favorite dish of the summer.  I, on the other hand, think that while Julia deserves ample props, a little grey rat named Remy probably deserves my thanks.

Really - and here's why...

A casserole dish heavy with layers of vibrant summer vegetables is a beautiful sight.  Especially if it smells as wildly mouthwatering as ratatouille does once all of those veggies start mingling with a little olive oil and herb.  It's almost enough to drive a person mad with desire.  Well, drive ME mad with desire, anyway.
But when it comes to the kids, they're not as easily seduced.  Yes, they loved stopping by the road-side stand to choose fat tomatoes, zucchini, and summer squash.  And as the layers started falling from the knife, they were intrigued.  And  sure, once everything began to come together, they couldn't resist peeking in the pot to see if those vegetables were really producing that awesome smell.

But I'm pretty sure what sold it was when they asked me what I was making.  And I told them Ratatouille.  Well.  Any child worth their spit perks up when they hear the word Ratatouille.  That piqued their interest.  HOOK.
Fast forward to supper time.  I received no objections.  Quite the opposite, actually.  I received uplifted plates waiting for a helping of ratatouille.  The younger kids both said they'd like a small serving to start with.  So I dished up small servings.  LINE.

Less than thirty seconds later, both plates were empty.  Mmmmmmmm's and I LOOOOVE ratatouille's were lilting through the air.  And requests for MORE RATATOUILLE were in my ear.  Aaaahhhh.  The beauty of it.
They both said it was the best dish they've had in a long time. And it was all vegetables. Oh yeah, that is what I like to hear. SINKER.

 So, thank you Julia. And thank you little grey rat named Remy - because while you were never mentioned, I know my kids and I know that at the mere mention of the word Ratatouille they thought of you. And then fell in love with ratatouille.


by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1-1½ hours
Keywords: simmer saute entree side vegan vegetables herbs French summer

Ingredients (serves 4-6)
  • 1 lb. eggplant
  • ½ lb. zucchini
  • ½ lb. yellow summer squash
  • ~7 Tbs. olive oil, divided
  • ½ lb. yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large (to equal ~1 cup) green bell peppers, sliced
  • 2 fat cloves garlic, peeled & smashed
  • ~1 lb. firm, ripe, red tomatoes , peeled seeded & juiced
  • 3 Tbs. minced parsley
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
Cut the eggplant, zucchini, and summer squash into slices of even thickness - I went thicker than ¼-inch but thinner than ½-inch. Place them all in a large bowl and sprinkle with about 1½ teaspoons of salt and toss. Let stand for 30 minutes, then drain. Lay out a double-thickness of paper towels and lay out the slices in a single layer. Blot the tops with another double-layer. You want to absorb as much water as you can, so press gently.
Heat about 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a 10 to 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add eggplant one layer at a time and sauté for approximately 1 minute per side, until lightly browned. Repeat with all of eggplant, zucchini, and summer squash. As they are done, remove them to a dish.

Lower heat to medium and add another 2-3 tablespoons olive oil. When oil is hot, add onions and green peppers and cook slowly until tender, ~10 minutes. Stir in garlic and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Slice tomato pulp into 3/8-inch strips.. Lay them over the onions and peppers. Season with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or until tomatoes have begun to render their juices. Uncover, baste tomatoes with some of the juices and then raise heat and boil for several moments to let juice almost entirely evaporate.

Place ⅓ of the tomato mixture in the bottom of a 2½-quart fireproof casserole dish that is at least 2½-inches deep and sprinkle with ⅓ of the parsley. Arrange half of the eggplant, zucchini, and summer squash over that. Repeat layers, ending with parsley.
Cover casserole and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Uncover, raise heat a bit, and continue to cook uncovered, basting occasionally with rendered juices for ~15 minutes longer.

Serve hot, warm, or cold. Not only does ratatouille make a perfect accompaniment for a simple meat, fish, or chicken dish, it makes a fabulous meal all on its own with a loaf of crusty bread for sopping up the juices and a bottle of wine to wash it all down.

adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking
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That would be recipe number three from book number three towards my personal goal of cooking one recipe from all seven of my Julia cookbooks during #CookforJulia.  And another favorite.
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Heather is a Michiana-based food, drink, and travel writer with a fondness for garlic, freshly baked bread, stinky cheese, dark beer, and Mexican food—who believes that immersing herself in different cultures one bite at a time is the best path to enlightenment.


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