Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ratatouille - the Recipe

Last week I reviewed the movie Ratatouille. The movie features a dish made for a food critic. The dish brings back memories of his childhood in the countryside. It is a vegetable stew prepared in farm kitchens, with fresh vegetables. Like our own pots of chili, each family had its own variation. There are hundreds of recipes available, but the basics are simple. It is hard to do this dish wrong.

Recipe #8 - Ratatouille

1 small eggplant
2 small zucchini squash
2small or 1 medium onion
2-4 tomatoes
2-4 cloves of garlic
Some bell pepper or hot pepper
Olive oil
Thyme, basil, salt pepper
Shredded Parmesan cheese

Some recipes call for separate cooking of the vegetables, sautéing them in sequence. But keeping the Grand Life tradition of easy recipes, I opted for a one pot -one time cooking scheme. Start with roughly equal amounts of the basic vegetables. Slice the zucchini into quarter inch rounds. Cut other vegetables to a similar size.

Coat an oven proof pan with olive oil. Distribute the vegetables in alternating layers. Add a little chopped garlic and spices to each layer. Drizzle olive oil over the top of the mixture. Cover the pan with a piece of parchment paper or a loose lid.

Put the pan in a 400 degree oven for about an hour. Stir the mixture at the halfway point. As the vegetables cook, the volume will reduce and they will release their liquid. Flavors of the vegetables will combine and compliment one another and the vegetable broth ties together the flavors of the stew.

There is room for variation in the cooking time. As the cooking time increases, more broth is released and the vegetables become softer. Some cooks prepare this dish entirely on the stove top.

My wife liked this dish very much. She said it fit into her comfort food category. I usually opt for steak over vegetables. I’m not much of a squash or eggplant fan, but this was a good combination. I added a grilled lamb shoulder chop to complete the dinner. With so much fresh produce available, I plan on repeating this several times this summer.

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