Monday, April 12, 2010


Ratatouille is a French dish made of stewed vegetables. Ratatouille is also a 2007 Pixar movie about a rat who wants to become a chef in a Paris restaurant.

Photo courtesy: Pixar

Ohhh, I love that movie. As I was doing a little research before writing this post, I found out that Thomas Keller worked as a food consultant on Ratatouille. How cool is that? I also found out that the ratatouille dish that Remy makes at the end of the movie - the really pretty one with alternating slices of vegetables - is in fact a real recipe, thought up by Thomas Keller.

Back to my dish. Some definitions of ratatouille say it's a baked dish, some recipes call for it to be only cooked on the stove. I don't know which way is the true, original French way but this version that I make is just cooked on the stove and is very similar to the dish served at Le Gamin (one of my favorite restaurants that is now closed. R.I.P.). This is a recipe I copied into my recipe book years ago so I don't remember where I found it, or how I changed it from the original.

1/4 c olive oil, plus more as needed
1 1/2 c small diced yellow onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
2 c medium diced eggplant, skin on
1/2 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 c diced green bell peppers
1 c diced red bell peppers
1 c diced zucchini
1 c diced yellow squash
1 1/2 c peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
1 Tbl. thinly sliced basil leaves
1 Tbl. chopped fresh parsley leaves
salt and pepper

Set a large saute pan over medium heat and add olive oil. Once hot add onion and garlic. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, about 5-7 minutes. Add eggplant and thyme, stirring occasionally until eggplant is partially cooked, about 5 minutes. Add peppers, zucchini, squash, and cook for additional 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, parsley, salt and pepper to taste, cook for final 5 minutes.

I actually like to use a can of diced tomatoes instead of chopping fresh ones because it makes the dish a little more stew-like rather than a bunch of cubed vegetables, it kind of makes everything stick together. If you really stick to the recipe, the dish only cooks for about 20 minutes. Mine ended up cooking for more like 45 minutes to an hour. I think the best way to attack it is NOT to chop up everything first, but as you go along. Start with the onions and garlic, and as that cooks chop up the eggplant. Once the eggplant is in, start chopping the zucchini, peppers, etc. and just put them into the pan as you chop them. It's pretty hard to mess up, the dish is just vegetables so as long as nothing burns you'll be ok. You'll probably want to turn the heat down a bit from medium at some point so it doesn't burn. Just make sure all the vegetables are cooked through and soft, but not mushy. And allowing it to cook longer gives the herbs and garlic a chance to spread throughout the dish. I like to turn the heat off and let it cool a bit before serving it, the flavors taste better warm rather than steaming hot.

"If you are what you eat, then I only want to eat the good stuff." -Remy

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