Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ratatouille: If It Looks Pretty, You're Doing It Wrong


I'd forgotten that ratatouille existed until I saw a post by Chef Michael Smith on Twitter, linking to his own recipe for the dish. Do you know Michael Smith? He is one of the benefits of living in a house with cable and, more to the point, with The Food Network. Michael Smith is a chef from PEI who looks and talks like John Corbett. It's eerie, really. I bet he has a hard time getting through airports without being besieged by Sex and the City fans. When he's not impersonating John Corbett, Michael Smith makes simple, intuitive dinners on his TV show and blesses us all with recipes that are easy to follow, healthy, and delicious.


So this is my version of his version of ratatouille. It is another one of those easy vegetarian dishes that is a classic and uses no freaky ingredients. Good for serving to non-vegetarians or those who need a bit of vegetarian inspiration. I know it's missing protein, so here are my suggestions for how to remedy that. In mine, I used leftover tomato soup for the tomato component, which was full of white bean puree. You could also serve it with some grilled tofu, or cover your bread with white bean spread. Or, as Chef John Corbett suggests, you could add some basil pesto to the dish, thereby adding some of that excellent nut protein.


3 tbsp olive oil
1 eggplant, peeled and cubed
3 small zucchini, cubed
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups of tomato product (you can use canned, strained, fresh... anything. I used tomato soup because that's what I had.)
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs fresh thyme
salt and pepper
1 bunch fresh basil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

Toss your eggplant pieces with salt and leave them in a colander to drain while you prep the rest of the ingredients.

When everything is ready, heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large saucepan or dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the (rinsed!) eggplant and zucchini. Cook until the eggplant is starting to brown. This can take as long as ten minutes.

Set cooked eggplant and zucchini aside and add the remaining 1 tbsp of oil to the same pan. Add the peppers and onions, cook until the onions begin to turn transparent, then add the garlic and cook until the vegetables are tender.

Add the tomatoes and the eggplant and zucchini. Stir well to combine. Add the whole sprigs of thyme and the bay leaf. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Turn the heat down to medium low. Cook until the eggplant pieces are completely tender. Should take about ten minutes, maybe a little longer. Just taste it to see if it's ready.

Remove thyme and bay leaf, season more with salt and pepper if needed. Eat with bread or rice.

Serves four, or six as a side dish.


Some Notes:

-People think they don't like eggplant. I understand. I, myself, want to barf when I bite down on a piece of undercooked eggplant. It's texture is just so horrible. This is why you have to be patient with this dish and really cook it until the eggplant is tender. Then it turns into a flavourful, creamy vegetable that works perfectly in stews like this, Trust me.

-I'm going out of town on business for a few days this week. I am worried about what I'll eat during the day when the conference I'm at will be attempting to feed me, but I'm excited about eating with friends at various vegan places. Should make for a mixed bag of a trip report when I get back.



Zoa said...

Love your title! It's too true. Last year Michael Smith was on every day at the exact time I work out, so I got to see a lot of his shows, and his theme of "cooking without a recipe" has been inspiring and empowering to me. He *is* freakishly like John Corbett, right up to the long curly hair and the sweet smile and the soft voice.

You can also add garbanzo beans to your ratatouille to up the protein content, but then after that maybe it's not true ratatouille but something else..delicious though!

T said...

Mmm love ratatouille... although I need spell check for it every time. And although eggplant is sometimes a mixed bag, as all vegetarian know, its worth the trouble.

Caitlin said...

i freakin love ratatouille. so warm and comforting. yours looks great..and dare i say..pretty..? ;)

Judi said...

I just discovered your blog and it is awesome! I don't follow bloggers as I don't have the time but yours is too good to skip. I am going to try your recipes. Thanks.

Maggie Muggins said...

I love Michael Smith! I used to watch his show everyday after work, but then they changed the time slot and I never get to see it anymore unless I have the day off :(
I've never tried ratatouille before, but I've wanted to ever since I watched the cartoon.

Bridget@MrsGreenJeans said...

Love this dish, and you're right it's not pretty! It is delicious though !!!!

Anonymous said...

miss your posts. Hope everything is okay.

Jo-Anne said...

Just discovered your blog. Your ratatouille looks wonderful, and I took the liberty of calculating how much protein it has. Using plain tomato (organic) tomato sauce, and without adding beans or anything else, one serving (1/4 of the recipe) has 15g of protein or 30% RDA for a 2000 kcal diet. Not too shabby!