Friday, April 6, 2012

Ratatouille


This morning I cuddled up with Brad on the couch and watched one of his favorite movies, Ratatouille. Okay, fine, truth be told, it's one of my favorite movies.

But you didn't come here to read my movie reviews. You're just here for the food. It's okay. So am I.

I made this classic Provencal dish a few years ago, after the movie came out, and was heartily disappointed. Bland. Soupy. Boring. I concluded it was fine as a topping for bruschetta, but little else.

Still the images and story behind the movie when food critic Anton Ego raises the fork to his lips and is instantly transported to his mother's kitchen and his childhood in Provence captured my imagination. What was so special about ratatouille? Perhaps the secret was in the preparation.

This morning, I paused the movie to watch as Remy ran vegetables through a mandolin and arranged them artfully atop tomato passata in a baking vessel.

Rich snickered. "Taking cooking lessons from a cartoon?"

Hmmff! Meanie.

The ratatouille came out like nothing I've ever tasted before. The kind of food that makes you want to kiss someone and call everyone and tell them how much you love them. Too bad for him. He's working tonight, so more ratatouille for me and kisses for the babies.

serves four-six

1 narrow eggplant
1 plump zucchini
4-5 vine-ripened tomatoes
2 large garlic cloves
2 tablespoons minced onion
1/2 cup tomato passata
1 sprig fresh rosemary
2-3 sprigs fresh thyme
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil

Slice the eggplant and zucchini in about 1/8" slices. Sprinkle generously with kosher salt, toss gently, and set aside in a colander to drain.

Slice the tomatoes in 1/8" slices as well.

Heat a couple tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a small skillet. Sweat the onion and garlic with a pinch of salt for about 4 minutes. Add the tomato passata and simmer on low heat for another 4-5 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ladle this sauce into a round baking dish, adding olive oil as needed to coat the bottom of the dish.

Remove the eggplant and zucchini from the colander and pat dry with paper towels.

Layer the eggplant, zucchini and tomato slices in the pan in a circular pattern. Tuck in the sprigs of herbs and season with freshly ground black pepper.

Top with a round piece of parchment paper and bake for about one hour. Remove the parchment, drizzle with 2 tablespoons additional olive oil and bake for another 30-45 minutes until the vegetables begin to brown. Transfer to a cooling rack for about 15 minutes before plating.

To serve, create a stack of vegetables and top with a piece of thyme or rosemary. Spoon bits of the sauce around each plate. Serve with crusty bread

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