Ratatouille

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Like many others (I think), I was rather deeply inspired by the movie Ratatouille. And odd as it may seem, I became infected with a desire to recreate the masterpiece of a cartoon rat.

I had no previous experience with ratatouille, which in its most basic form is a simple country conglomeration of vegetables. So my vision had something to do with fancy restaurant food delicately dressed on white plates and gobbled up by critics.

Disney's Ratatouille's Ratatouille
Image from Disney Pixar’s Ratatouille

Fortunately, Smitten Kitchen (and other sites) had already followed up on this impulse.

I did change a few things though. First of all, since it’s tomato season, I’m not that into using canned tomatoes or sauce or paste or any of that. I have real awesome tomatoes, I want to use them. So I made up a little sauce and baked it in the pan first, then followed the recipe. I also added cheese on top, because nom.

Furthermore, I didn’t have any red peppers. So much for that dash of color.

One of the useful tricks used in this recipe (Mark Bittman’s, anyway) that should also be repurposed for many others is salting eggplant. All you need to do it cut it ahead of time, sprinkle some salt on it and let it sit for a little while. This gets rid of some of the juice and makes a phenomenal difference in texture. Although perhaps if I had a mandolin it wouldn’t matter as much for this particular dish.

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Obviously I couldn’t cut them as thin as a mandolin can. Although I admit (excuses…) that I was also in a bit of a hurry with these, because really one can do wonders with a knife.

Ratatouille
1 really fat tomato or a few smaller ones (the sauce kind)
1/2 onion
Garlic (to taste)
Olive oil
1 small eggplant
1 small zucchini
Thyme
Salt, pepper
Parmesan, or similar cheese

Turn oven to about 375ºF. Chop up the tomatoes, onion, and garlic and put in baking dish. Roast in the oven for at least 20 minutes, stirring every now and then.

Thinly slice the eggplant, spread out and sprinkle with salt. Let sit. Thinly slice the zucchini (and red peppers if you have them). You can also throw in a different summer squash as well as the zucchini if you like. Grate the cheese.

When the tomatoes are nice and saucy, layer the zucchini and eggplant slices together in the dish (see above; you can also do it in a circle depending on the shape of your pan). Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and thyme.

Bake for around 45 minutes (it will start smelling fantastic), then top with cheese and put back in for another 15 or so. Edges should be crispy and veggies will be cooked but definitely not soggy.

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Serve hot. I had mine with beans and quinoa because they needed using up; but I think this would go with many things, either as a side or a feature.

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And yes, that is Settlers of Catan in the background.

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