Ratatouille anyone?

If the first thought you had was the movie with the sweet mouse, then, well, we can be best friends. I loved that movie, and like most, ever since watching it, I have been itching to make this wonderful Ratatouille dish. So this weekend…I finally did it. Ohhhhh boy. This was definitely an undertaking that I am very proud of. When it came time for it’s glamour shot, I was all about it…like a proud parent.

While I don’t want to go into the details of preparing this dish (because it most certainly does not follow the theme of this blog) there were definitely several steps within the preparation of this dish that I want to touch on, as well as highlight certain ingredients that I, myself, have never used prior.

If you have never heard of ratatouille, here is a little background:

RATATOUILLE   
[ra-tuh-TOO-ee]
: a warm vegetable dish consisting of onions, zucchini, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, rosemary, basil, olive oil, garlic and salt
: from the French region of Provence
: vegetables can be cooked together or separately and then combined at the end
: can be served hot, cold or at room temp, either as a side dish or as an appetizer with bread or crackers

The recipe that I followed was actually for roasted ratatouille, there are several versions out there, however, this one seemed the easiest (?). I will tell you that it requires quite a bit of time, not just chopping and peeling, but the roasting time is quite lengthy. However, it is SO worth it. The vegetables, especially the eggplant and garlic, become almost buttery. MMM!

First things first…it called for 15 whole cloves of garlic. 15! Whew. I love me some garlic.

15 garlic cloves!

While the garlic remains whole, everything else needed to be peeled and chopped. One ingredient that required a peel was our very own tomato. Now, if you are an experienced cook, you might already know this secret, but if you are not, then read on. When it comes to peeling, one might automatically think, oh yeah, I have a peeler. However, I am here to make your life easier.

Cut a shallow 'x' into bottom before boiling.

I found this article on how to peel tomatoes without even picking up a peeler, or a knife for that matter. Just cut a shallow ‘x’ into the bottom of each tomato, place into a boiling pot of water for 30 seconds, throw into a large bowl of ice water for 5 minutes (to let them cool completely) and then prepare to be amazed at just how easily the peel comes off.

After peeling and chopping the rest of the ingredients, I threw them all into a bowl and added salt and rosemary. Little pieces of delicious rosemary. I for one, am a huge fan of rosemary. Back in high school (when I dreamed of being a pastry chef) I shadowed a chef at Vincenzo’s Italian Restaurant in Louisville, KY for a day (thanks to my wonderful father who held a lot of business meetings there). One of the main things I remember from that day was working with the chef on a pork roast covered in rosemary. I remember the smell was just incredible! From then on I was sold. So I was sure to add in extra rosemary to this dish. On a side note, if you’ve never tried rosemary in your scrambled eggs…well…you should. The flavor is incredible. I never would’ve tried it had my bf not experimented with it. Delicious.

Rosemary

ROSEMARY
[rhoz-mair-ee]

: a woody, perennial fragrant, evergreen, needle-like leaves. A member of the mint family
: whole sprigs can be used to flavor food, remember to remove the woodier part before serving

: high in iron, calcium and vitamin B

Recommended uses
: beans, chicken, fish, game, grains, lamb, mushrooms, onions, oranges, peas, pork, potatoes, poultry, salmon, spinach, steaks, veal, eggs
: great for roasting, grilling, and barbecuing
: mix with garlic, lemon and seasoning for a delicious marinade
: combines well with bay, chives, garlic, mint, oregano, parsley, sage, savory & thyme

Substitutions
: 1 T fresh = 1 t dried
: sage or thyme

Storage
: wrap in paper towel and place into Ziploc bag to keep fresh for several weeks (~15 days) in the crisper: can be frozen for longer storage

Once you get over how much you love rosemary, you divide the mixture between two large baking sheets, covered in foil and topped with parchment paper (allows for super speedy cleanup). Roast at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, then throw the tomatoes in and roast for another 30 minutes or so. Make sure to stir ingredients every so often to prevent burning, the closer together the vegetables are, the less likely they’ll burn. Once you remove it from the oven, toss in about a 1/2 cup of chopped fresh basil. I bought some fresh basil while at the farmers market and I was definitely stoked to use it. It smelled up my entire fridge with it’s delicious aromas.

A little basil.

BASIL
[ba-zel]
: there are more than 60 varieties of basil, each with its own distinct flavor (which can range from hints of lemon, thyme, jasmin, clove, cinnamon and anise)
: native to India

Recommended uses
: the ultimate complement to tomatoes, pairs well also with onions, garlic and olives
: pairs well with oregano, savory, rosemary and sage

: for most intense flavor, basil should be added at the end of the cooking process 

Substitutions
: when substituting fresh basil for dried, triple the amount (dried basil has less flavor)

: 1 T fresh chopped basil = 1 t dried 

Storage
: Fresh basil leaves should be layered in damp paper towels inside a plastic bag and refrigerated up to 4 days.
: fresh basil can be frozen either whole or chopped, added in still frozen to food prep
: dried basil loses potency within 6 months

And there you have it. If you’ve never made ratatouille, I would definitely recommend it for a weekend meal, possibly after venturing to the local farmers market. You can eat it however you like, I decided to throw it over a bed of quinoa because I am kind of obsessed with quinoa. It’s a nice break from rice and adds in the needed protein for this dish of roasted vegetables. If you’ve never had quinoa, then you should go buy some. Now. It’s so simple to make. The kind that I buy is from Trader Joe’s, but I’ve bought several different brands of it, and they’re all prepared the same way.

QUINOA
[keen-wah]

: an amino acid-rich (protein) seed

: fluffy, creamy, slightly crunchy texture
: slight nutty flavor
: a relative of leafy green vegetables like spinach and swiss chard as opposed to grains (common misconception)
: great source of manganese, iron, copper and phosphorus
: several varieties including yellow, orange, pink, red, purple and black. 

Recommended uses
: combine cooked with pinto beans, pumpkin seeds, scallions and coriander

: add nuts and fruits to cooked quinoa
: use quinoa noodles in place of pasta noodles
: add to vegetable soups
: use in place of rice for just about any dish
: add chopped avocado, black beans, corn, feta cheese, lime, salt & pepper, olive oil; serve cold 

How to prepare:
: 1 cup quinoa + 2 cups water

: bring to a boil
: reduce heat to simmer, cover
: simmer 12-15 minutes
: remove from stove, fluff with fork 

Roasted Ratatouille

Cheers!

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