Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Riffing on Ratatouille

Sooooo...ratatouille...where to begin. My first ever exposure to this dish was back in 1977. I was barely 18, had just started in the grocery industry, and was working in frozen food. I'd never even heard of ratatouille, but my store manager apparently loved it enough for both of us, because he would check on the supply of Stouffer's frozen ratatouille every day. Really! Every. Single. Day. Once I took a good look at the food with the funny name, I realize why I'd never heard of it: it was made with eggplant. I had never had eggplant in my life! I don't think my mother would have known what to do with an eggplant--it simply had never crossed our threshold.

Onward we go and over the years I've tried eggplant parmesan, fried eggplant, various other eggplant dishes, and never found it to be all that interesting. I'll eat it, but I don't need to have it. But then we started to get these lovely little eggplants in our half share, and I thought of that dish with the funny name again.

I discovered that the most famous ratatouille recipe in the world is Julia Child's, so that's where I started. Now, I don't mean any disrespect, but as is my habit, I didn't follow it exactly. She would have you sauteeing each vegetable separately. I'm not patient enough for that, so everything went in together. All in all, it turned out nicely, and doesn't seem to have suffered from my tweaks.

Then we came across the recipe touted as a "baked riff on ratatouille" in the September 2011 issue of Whole Living magazine. This layered dish pairs tomatoes, onion, and squash with potatoes and parmesan cheese. THAT sounded REALLY good, so I gave it a shot! It's isn't a true ratatouille because it doesn't have eggplant, but it is absolutely delicious!

Baked Tomatoes, Squash, and Potatoes

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 small tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 medium yellow summer squash, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 medium yukon gold potato, sliced 1/4 inch thick
coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 Tbsp freshly grated Parmesan

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Heat oil over medium and cook onion until tender and lightly golden, 6 to 8 minutes.

Arrange the onion on the bottom of a 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Overlap tomato, squash, and potato on top of the onion. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with thyme and Parmesan, and drizzle with more oil.

Bake covered for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden, 30 minutes more.

In the end, I'm happy I tried both versions. They were both tasty and filling and worth the effort. But the one with cheese? Wonderful.

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