“If you’re gonna name a food, you should give it a name that sounds delicious. Ratatouille doesn’t sound delicious. It sounds like “rat” and “patootie.” Rat-patootie, which does not sound delicious.” -Linguini, Disney/ Pixar’s Ratatouille
I always been a lover of markets, but never really a frequenter of them. So naturally when Gillian asked me if I was interested in going to the market last week I responded with a very enthusiastic yes.
So last Saturday I woke up at an ungodly hour, made even more ungodly by the fact that it was a Saturday and headed out to meet Gillian at Starbucks. Not only did she beat me there, when I arrived she was dressed in a completely adorable manner, dispite the fact that it was freakishly early and she probably (okay, definitely) had to leave the house at least 20 minutes earlier than me. [NOTE: I am almost certainly exaggerating about how early in the morning all of this actually took place.] We both grabbed a much-needed coffee and hopped on the bus.
When we arrived at the market I wanted to take absolutely everything home with me from crisp apples and crunchy green beans to that beautiful busker playing by the maple syrup stand. (There’s just something magical about holding a guitar that makes sevens transform into tens.) Gillian’s motherly reminders that “anything you buy you have to carry home on the bus” paired with the thought of my ever-shrinking bank account kept me from buying a second jar of honey (but this one has cinnamon in it!), a little Christmas tree (it would look adorable in the living room!) and a pair of moccasins (but they’re nothing like my other ones!). However it did not stop me from buying lots of tasty fall veggies, some Niagra honey and a big jug of apple cider, which I’ve been dying to buy for weeks but could never bear the grocery store price.
I arrived home with an armload of delicious fresh veggies and a hankering for Ratatouille. In September I made “Ratatouille’s Ratatouille” from Smitten Kitchen and was looking forward to trying it again with a few of my own alterations. Side note: Smitten Kitchen is a fabulous blog written by Deb Perelman, who puts both my photography and writing skills to shame. You should go look at her blog. Also she’s writing a cookbook, which you should probably buy the second it comes out. Anyway, Deb describes this Ratatouille as being just like that fancy shamncy dish from the Disney movie, and nothing like the chunky stuff your mom used to make. Not that there’s anything wrong with the stuff you mom used to make, but this Ratatouille? Let me just say, one bite of this and you’ll know exactly why that snobby food critic sacrificed his whole reputation to eat food made by a rat.
This dish is the perfect thing to make on a lazy fall afternoon when you have the time to leisurely puree tomatoes and chop eggplant whilst chatting with friends who are making jello shots cupcakes for that evening’s birthday party. What’s that? Nobody has time to leisurely chop eggplant? Oh that’s right. I just use food to procrastinate when I have a hundred other things to do. Just yesterday I made chocolate zucchini cake instead of working on this post, and with exams just around the corner I’m worried for both my GPA and my BMI. Nonetheless it was a splendid morning of shopping with Gillian and a fun afternoon of eggplant chopping and being entertained by the birthday girl’s hilarious little brother.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
1/3 onion, finely chopped
1 or 2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
3 bigish tomatoes, 4 small ones
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small eggplant
2 small bell peppers (I used red and yellow)
Few sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Start by peeling your tomatoes. You can do this by letting them sit in boiling water for a minute and then running cold tap water over them. The skins will slide right off. Dice the tomatoes and puree them in a blender or food processor. Pour this into a pan and bring to a boil. Simmer so that the liquid can evaporate. As you do this the puree will get thicker and redder. When the tomatoes are approaching desired constancy add the onion and garlic. Let simmer for a little longer and then pour into the bottom of your baking dish. Stir in salt, pepper and one tablespoon of the olive oil.
Trim the ends off the eggplant and zucchini. As carefully as you can, trim the ends off the peppers and remove the core, leaving the edges intact, like a tube. With a sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini and peppers into very thin slices. Keep in mind that you want all your vegetables to be about the same circumference, so that the layering process is easier. If one of the vegetables is thinner than the others (this happens to me with the zucchini) you can cut it on a diagonal to make the circles longer.
Arrange slices of prepared vegetables on top of the tomato sauce. Overlap them so just a bit of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. You might have some left over after. I had about a third of the zucchini and eggplant left. Remember that this is a particularly flexible recipe quantity wise. If your dish is bigger just use an extra tomato or two in the sauce.
Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish.
Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside and bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp. They should not be brown at the edges, and you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them.
Serve with a dab of soft goat cheese on top. Deb also suggests crusty bread or couscous. Hmmm… next time.