Friday, October 28, 2011

Roasted Ratatouille: A Not So Traditional Take on a Classic for Food 'N Flix: Ratatouille

A few years ago I took a trip to New York with friends, staying in a short-term rental apartment in the city. It was my favorite kind of trip ... shop, eat, shop, eat, shop for food, eat more food... you get the picture. A few days into the trip after a particularly long day of shopping and eating, I woke from a dead sleep to the pitch black room and sounds of rustling coming near the area of my shopping bags--like someone was rummaging through them. After gathering my nerves I reached for the bedside lamp and turned it on, not sure what to expect (burglar? ghost? good friend turned kleptomaniac?) The glow from the light showed no one but I got a quick glimpse of something large, black and furry darting for the closet door. Ewww! It was a rat! Interrupted in the process of looting my Dean & Deluca bag full of tea, chocolate and spices. I won't go into all the gory details but suffice it to say that the apartment managers were called, exterminating occurred, nothing was left on the floor anymore, all food stuffs of any kind ended up in the fridge in the kitchen, and the lights were left on all night for the remainder of my (now pretty sleepless) stay.

In a bright shiny technicolor Disney world, the rat would have been a somewhat cute little fella named Remy who dreams of becoming a chef and was simply searching for some quality ingredients in my shopping bag to whip me up a delicious breakfast or a steaming pot full of Ratatouille.

Unfortunately this was not "my" rat...

In the world I live in (aka the real world), it was instead a big dirty bugger who gnawed through a bag of gourmet salt and vinegar chips and some dried fruit (thankfully all tea, spices and chocolate were safely encased in tins). Rat bastard! So as much as I enjoy the warm-hearted animated Disney foodie movie Ratatouille, our Food 'N Flix pick for November, hosted by Beth Anne of The Seventh Level of Boredom, it still gives me the heebie-jeebies when I think too closely about rats hanging out and cooking food.

I wanted to make a Ratatouille for the film (luckily there are still plenty of zucchini and tomatoes lurking about here), but I wanted a little different take on the classic. Enter this Roasted Ratatouille from a classic northwest cookbook, Jerry Traunfeld's "The Herb Farm Cookbook." Instead of simmering away on the stove, the veggies and plenty of garlic are bathed in herbs and oil and roasted, then chopped and stuffed back into the eggplant shell and baked.

Jerry Traunfeld sats, "The traditional version of ratatouille, a late summer vegetable stew from the south of France, is cooked on the stovetop, but this dish is cooked entirely in the oven. The vegetables are brushed with a mixture of herbs and olive oil and then are roasted together on the same baking sheet. They come out of the oven tender, but not mushy, and imbued with the fragrance of the roasted herbs. You scoop the eggplant from its skin and chop it with all the rest of the roasted vegetables, mix everything together with some fresh basil, stuff it back into the eggplant shells and bake it again. The second time in the oven, all the flavors have a chance to meld."

Roasted Ratatouille
The Herbfarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld
(Makes 4 to 6 Servings) (Or 2-3 as a main dish)

1 medium eggplant (about 1 1/4 lbs)
1 medium zucchini (about 4 oz)
1 large red bell pepper
1 lb ripe plum tomatoes (about 6)
1 head garlic
1/4 cup + 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme
about 3/4 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil
2 Tbsp fresh bread crumbs

1) Roasting the vegetables:
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the eggplant in half, leaving the cap on. With the tip of a chef's knife, score the flesh in a diamond pattern, making cuts 1-inch apart and almost to the bottom without piercing the skin. Cut the zucchini lengthwise into 4 slices. Pierce the pepper in several places with the tip of a knife. Cut the tomatoes crosswise in half and poke out the seeds with your finger. Cut off the top quarter oh the head of garlic. Stir 1/4 cup oil, the rosemary, sage and thyme together in a small bowl.

Spread out the vegetables on the baking sheet and brush them with the herb mixture, coating all sides of the zucchini and pepper. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and black pepper and roast until the eggplant is tender, the zucchini begins to brown slightly, the pepper skin is blackened, the tomatoes are shriveled, and the garlic is soft, about 40 minutes. All of the vegetables should cook in approximately the same amount of time. Let the vegetables cool until you can handle them.

2) Assembling:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. With a large spoon, scoop out the flesh of the eggplant without breaking the skin. Peel and seed the red pepper under running water. Chop the eggplant pulp, red pepper, zucchini, and tomatoes coarsely and combine them in a large mixing bowl. Squeeze the garlic out of its skin into a small bowl and mash it with the back of a fork, then stir it into the chopped roasted vegetables along with the vinegar and basil. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if needed.

Put the eggplant shells in a shallow baking dish in which they fit comfortably and spoon in the ratatouille, dividing it between the halves. At this point the dish can be covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Drain any liquid that accumulates in the baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the fresh breadcrumbs and drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake the ratatouille until it's heated through and starts to bubble around the edges, 25 to 35 minutes. Serve hot or warm.

Notes/Results: Not your normal stewish ratatouille but delicious all the same. Roasting the veggies brings out the flavor and the sweetness and the combination of the garlic and the rosemary, sage, thyme and basil is enticing. This will have to go down as another dish I made this week that isn't exactly photogenic but tastes really good. (Bonus--it was not made by a cartoon or real rat!) ;-) If there are not still zucchini around in your neck of the woods, this would be a great recipe to sub out your favorite veggies in based on the season--a winter squash or maybe some mushrooms would be nice. A make again recipe.

The deadline for this month's Food 'N Flix is October 31st, Beth Anne will be doing a round up shortly after or join us for November's pick, Simply Irresistible hosted by Cocina de Leslie.


  1. This demands to be tried. I've never baked the components for ratatouille, but your recipe sounds wonderful. You snared me :-). I hope all is well. Have a great weekend. Blessings...Mary

  2. That night in your NYC apartment sounds like a nightmare.

    This ratatouille looks fabulous! I made a similar version in the oven awhile back (a Tyler Florence recipe) and it was a huge hit! I think his recipe was served over salmon, but this version on eggplant would be just as delicious.

  3. It looks delicious! I love those vegetables in whatever form they occur.

    Urchin is convinced that we have a mouse living under our fridge. Nothing we can say will move her! I assume she's wrong though, because I (unlike her) know about the signs a mouse leaves in a kitchen!

  4. scary NYC story...but delicious looking ratatouille!

  5. Ugh that's really gross (the rat). I'm sorry my city treated you so badly. But at least you got a crazy story and some delicious ratatouille out of the deal.

  6. EEEEEEEK! Oh my gosh, I would totally lose it if I saw that rat. On the other hand, I would love to see this roasted ratatouille in the room with me. I love the way it is presented and think ratatouille is such a lovely, versatile dish! Great post :D

  7. I love roasted and stuffed aubegine. I think the way the flesh goes all creamy is just heavenly.

  8. Great story! I can't wait to try this ratatouille.


  9. I love this story---but I would have freaked out!

    Your recipe sounds wonderful---what a great idea to stuff an eggplant with the rest of the ratatouille ingredients.


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