Ratatouille!

Why did I decide to try making ratatouille? To be perfectly honest, I’ve wanted to try it (homemade or otherwise) since I saw the Disney/Pixar movie. I mean really, an adorably animated rat living in Paris who loves to cook? Totally up my alley. Especially when you add in the necessary feel good message that if you keep trying you can achieve your dreams.

I fall for that stuff every time.

In the movie (spoiler alert!) ratatouille is the dish our furry friend makes to melt the heart of the mean old food critic. It’s considered a risky move because it’s a simple peasant dish, and is that really what you want to serve the most highly regarded food critic ever?

I decided to make some myself and find out. And yes, it’s pretty darn good. I would definitely make this recipe again. This is a wonderful dish for anyone with a bumper crop of tomatoes hanging around. It also let me experiment with eggplant, something I had never cooked with before, which always makes for an exciting day in my kitchen!

Ratatouille – recipe modified from Food & Wine, Oct. 2011

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
  • 6 large garlic cloves
  • 1 large zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 large yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 pounds of tomatoes, cored and finely chopped
  • 1 cup of loosely packed and shredded basil leaves
  • lemon zest of one lemon
  • lemon juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
Directions:
1. In a large casserole dish or Dutch oven (and I mean large, this nearly didn’t fit in the pan I used and I made a huge mess all over the stove top) heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil. Add the eggplant and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add 1/3 of the garlic and cook for another minute. Remove the eggplant from the dish and pour it into a bowl. *Note* this recipe is done in batches to speed up the cooking (and therefore eating). I promise eggplant tastes better than it looks.
2. While you’re cooking the eggplant: add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a second pan and let it heat up. Then add the zucchini and yellow squash and cook over medium heat until lightly browned in spots, or about 5 minutes. Add another 1/3 of garlic and cook for another minute. Remove the zucchini/squash mixture and add it to the bowl with the eggplant.
3. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil to the original casserole dish and let it heat up. Add the onion and the red pepper and cook over medium heat until softened, about 7 minutes.. Add the remaining garlic and cook for another minute.
4. Add the tomatoes to the onion and pepper mixture along with 2/3 of your basil and the reserved vegetables you previously cooked. (Now you see why we needed the big dish!) Cook the whole mixture, stirring to combine throughly until the tomatoes have broken down and all the vegetables are tender. A fork should easily pierce your largest piece of eggplant. That will take about 15 minutes.
5. Stir in the remaining basil along with the lemon zest and juice. Remove from heat, spoon into bowls, sprinkle with feta cheese and dig in! This dish is great with a light Sauvignon Blanc. We enjoyed it with a bottle of Mohua, 2010.
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