ratatouille – vegetables that even picky boys like
The beloved carnivore loves ratatouille – he loves it so much that he got a mandoline for me after I told him pointedly (several times) that it would make it much easier for me to make ratatouille for him. The fact that he loves ratatouille so much thrills me – because it’s pretty healthy, especially if you serve it over a bed of rice or some other healthy grain.
When he was in town this weekend for Easter, he was getting over a sinus infection. It was rainy and disgusting outside, so I wouldn’t let him come with me to the grocery store, even though he wanted to. It was selfish – I didn’t want him to get more sick, and therefore be too tired to do the Easter egg hunt I made for him in my living room. You might think you can’t find a lot of places to hide Easter eggs in a living room, but trust me, you can.
When I was at the grocery store, I saw a small Japanese eggplant, which is perfect for ratatouille because its circumference is much smaller and more similar to that of yellow squash, zucchini, and red pepper. So I decided to be a nice, generous fiancée, and surprise the beloved carnivore with ratatouille for dinner. (She’s generous, so generous . . . )
Adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen; Serves 3-4
- 1 smallish yellow squash
- 1 smallish zucchini
- 1 long, narrow red pepper, with the top cut off and the seeds removed
- 1 smallish eggplant – the smaller and more stick-like, the better
- 1 small onion or 1/2 of a large onion
- 1 cup tomato puree
- 3 garlic cloves
- half bunch of green onions, optional
- 2 TBSP olive oil, divided
- salt, pepper, and dried oregano and thyme to taste (fresh herbs work great, of course, but dried work beautifully, too)
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Prepare your vegetables. Peel and thinly slice your garlic cloves. Chop your onion into a half-inch dice, and finely dice your half-bunch of green onion (if using). Now slice the rest of your vegetables into 1/8 inch slices – this is much easier with a mandoline, but it’s definitely doable with just a good knife. And if you have a mandoline, and if you’re like me, you may find it impossible to slice the eggplant without it gumming up on the blade, so you may want to resort to a sharp knife. Set your vegetables aside.
Into the bottom of a 1.5 quart baking dish, either oval or round, pour the 1 cup of tomato puree. Add in the onion, green onions (if using) and 1 TBSP of the olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper and add a dash of oregano or thyme, then stir well. Scatter the slices of garlic on top.
Arrange the other vegetables in concentric circles on top of the sauce. Start with a slice of squash, then a slice of zucchini, then a slice of eggplant, then a slice of red pepper. Then lather, rinse, repeat. Well, just the repeat part. Please don’t put soap in your food.
It doesn’t matter much if your slices aren’t perfect – you can easily arrange them so that the flawed parts of the slices are covered by other vegetables.
Once you’re done arranging the vegetables, top with more salt and pepper and a little bit more oregano or thyme.
Deb over at Smitten Kitchen instructs you to cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the baking dish, and to press it on top of the vegetables before putting it in the oven. I forgot this part this weekend and didn’t notice a huge difference, but there probably was one, and the beloved carnivore was simply too sick to notice it and politely point it out to me. So you should probably do as Deb says.
Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until the vegetables are fully cooked and have started to get a bit wrinkly at the edges. Well, not wrinkly, but you know what I mean.
Also, you will likely have extra vegetable slices – though you may run out of red pepper. Just save them and make another batch of ratatouille the next day, or find another creative use for them (Em’s better at that part than I am, so she’d have better ideas than I do).
Let cool for a few minutes, and then scoop a serving over rice, couscous, or whatever you want. Make sure to scoop up plenty of the delicious sauce!