Monday, October 24, 2011

Reader Entry: Ratatouille

Remy, Chef de Cuisine
While "Ratatouille" is one of my favorite animated movies, it's also a fantastic thing to eat. Thank you to the reader who suggested I use it as a blog post for the next Reader Entry. Great idea. 
Anton Ego, Food Critic

If you saw the movie, you'll remember the dish was served at the end when the nasty food critic, Anton Ego, comes into the restaurant prepared to rip it apart, as he does nearly every other dining establishment in Paris. Instead, when he is served Ratatouille (rat-tat-too-ee), he is transported back to his happy childhood. Needless to say, he gives the restaurant rave reviews.

The dish consists of garlic and onions, spinach, zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes and bell peppers and olive oil and herbs for additional flavor. How much healthier than that can it get? Talk about the "Mediterranean Diet"!

Ratatouille is versatile: it can be eaten as a side dish to meat or chicken, or as a main course along with crusty bread or over pasta.  I prefer it over pasta and make it a vegetarian meal,  starting off with a mixed green salad with a homemade vinaigrette.

Ratatouille is a great way to hang on to summer. Eggplant, tomatoes, and zucchini can still be found at the farmer's market, so this is perfect to make right now before the weather turns chillier and we all long for warm days again.

While some recipes I researched call for preparing each vegetable separately and then putting them all together at the end, I have never done this and frankly consider it a huge waste of time. It's all going to end up together anyway. Maybe there's something to it, but I don't have the patience for that. I just wanna eat! That's why I like the following recipe.


2 Tbsp. pine nuts
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 tsp. thyme leaves (if using fresh, use a little less)
1 small eggplant (about ¾ lb.), unpeeled , cut into ½-inch cubes
1 large green or red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large zucchini, chopped
2 cups chopped fresh spinach leaves
3 large tomatoes (about 1 lb. total) , chopped
¼ cup minced parsley
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil
Lemon wedges or grated lemon peel

Toast pine nuts 5 minutes in a pan over medium heat and without oil until slightly golden brown. Remove from pan to cool.
Heat ½ the oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, cook until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add remaining oil, and thyme through pepper, cook 5 minutes. Add zucchini through parsley, reduce, simmer uncovered about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender. Season to taste. Serve hot or at room temp. with pine nuts, torn basil leaves and lemon. Makes about 4 cups.

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