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Monday, July 02, 2007

A Ratatouille Weekend

On Saturday afternoon we went to see Ratatouille, the Pixar film about a rat who wants to be a chef. Loved it, and would go see it again — if you're a foodie or an animation fan, you should definitely put it on your list of things to do this summer.

We were having a couple of people over for dinner on Sunday, and I was pondering what to prepare. The usual grilled summer fare wouldn't work, because one of our guests is a vegetarian. What to do?

Then, a blinding flash of the obvious struck: Ratatouille! The French peasant dish is basically a stew made from summer vegetables, and besides that the movie had made me want to try it. Time to do a Google search....

serves 8 to 10

After reading a very informative page of Ratatouille recipes on the Provence & Beyond site, I did a little hunting and gathering at the local farm stand and at the grocery, and collected the following:

5 medium tomatoes
3 bell peppers (one red, one orange, one yellow)
2 large eggplants
2 medium yellow zucchinis
1 large green zucchini
3 large onions
12 cloves garlic
1 6-oz. can tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Herbes de Provence
Extra virgin olive oil

Then the slicing and dicing commenced....

Put a good quantity of olive oil in a large stockpot. Chop onions and simmer them in the oil. Mince garlic and add to the pot. Do not allow the mixture to brown. If you happen to be drinking white wine, put a splash in the pot and stir it in.

Clean the bell peppers and slice them into thin strips about 1" long. Add to pot.

Chop the tomatoes into 1/2" chunks and stir into the mixture, along with the tomato paste. Add the pepper and a handful of Herbes de Provence (I get mine at Penzey's).

Slice the zukes into rounds and add them to the pot. Put the lid on the pot and let the mixture simmer while you slice the eggplants into 1/2" thick rounds, brush both sides with olive oil, and grill over medium-high heat until done. (Hey, I had to grill something, and this step really does add to the flavor of the finished stew.)

Add the grilled eggplant slices to the pot and give everything a good stir. Simmer on low heat for about 90 minutes, stirring occasionally.

We served our Ratatouille over Rossi Pasta's Tomato Basil Garlic Fettucini. Our version may not have turned out as photogenic as Pixar's, but it was delicious!

Even though it contains no meat, this dish is plenty hearty enough to stand up to red wine. In our case, it was the Hedges Three Vineyards 2004 ($24), a wonderful Bordeaux-style blend from the Red Mountain area of Washington State. This American version of the classic French wine perfectly complemented our American version of the classic French vegetable stew, and was une grande fin for our Ratatouille weekend.
M. Zane Grey, 10:17 AM