I always love a good movie about food. Julie & Julia, Ratatouille, and one of the more recent ones, The 100-foot Journey. These are some of the movies that I don’t mind watching over and over and over again. What more in Ratatouille, the passion for food is ignited by something often regarded as filthy, a rat; Remy. Maybe in some ways, the movie is trying to pass on a message where if you have passion for something, throwing in some effort and extra love will make things all possible, even if you are a rat.
Of course, in real, Ratatouille is not made or conceptualized by a rat. This was a rendition of Thomas Keller’s Confit Byaldi. The recipe I used was adapted from smitten kitchen. Ratatouille (pronounced as rat-a-too-ee) is a traditional baked french dish. Tomatoes are a key ingredient, with garlic, onions, courgette (zucchini), aubergine (eggplant), bell peppers, marjoram and basil, or bay leaf and thyme, or a mix of green herbs like herbes de Provence. It’s a very summery dish as tomatoes are often abundant and flavourul during summer.
But if you didn’t cook your own tomato sauce, using tomato puree from the jar is permissible.
The key difference to the Ratatouille version is that the vegetables are sliced thinly and arranged in the most impressive way. Stews can be quite boring and hard to capture but with this dish, you want to show the beauty of what vegetables has to offer. Using a mandolin would quicken the process of making this beautiful dish (but you know, I actually don’t have a mandolin at home) SO MY MOM SLICED IT for me (easy for her cause she has samurai knife skills) . Cause I was busy making some chicken roulade for the entire family (of 8) So, really, I just flavoured the sauce with some onion, garlic and thyme, then arranged it all on 2 dishes, which didn’t take too long.
After that, place an aluminium foil over and put it in the oven. This would prevent the vegetables from browning too fast while retaining it’s gorgeous colour.
A tip on preparing this dish is to get the vegetables at about the same size so you have a more uniformed arrangement. It’s a very easy dish to make, though it takes a long time to prepare if you do not have a mandoline that is. A very flavourful and hearty dish to serve on the table, shared with family.
- ½ onion, finely chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
- 1 cup tomato puree (such as Pomi)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 1 small eggplant
- 1 smallish zucchini (green)
- 1 smallish yellow squash (yellow zucchini)
- 1 longish red bell pepper
- Few sprigs fresh thyme and basil leaves.
- Salt and pepper
- Lightly saute onion and garlic with some olive oil on a pan till fragrant. Pour in tomato sauce, thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Leave it to simmer on low flame for 10 minutes.
- Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. As carefully as you can, trim the ends off the red pepper and remove the core, leaving the edges intact, like a tube.
- On a mandoline, adjustable-blade slicer or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.
- Pour tomato sauce onto a baking dish. Arrange slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. You may have a handful leftover that do not fit.
- Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs with your fingertips, running them down the stem. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish. Randomly stuff basil leaves in between the vegetable.
- Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper or aluminium foil.
- Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes on 170 C, 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 hot.