When I first got to B's house, she decided that she wanted to play Monopoly. Now this wasn't just any Monopoly, this was the Disney-Pixar Monopoly! The gamepieces were Nemo, Buzz Lightyear, that red car from that car movie I didn't like, Mike & Sully, and Mr. Incredible! You can't go wrong witha cast like that! But the best one of all (and the one I got to play as) was Remy from Ratatouille. There's just something about a movie that has the message "Anyone can cook" that just tugs at my little heart.
I can't tell you what initially made me fall in love with the movie. We all know that the thought of a rat preparing a meal would make even the strongest stomach gurgle in protest. I can tell you that now that my favorite part of the movie, and why I watch it over and over again and get a tear in my eye (hey don't judge me!), is near the end when the food critic takes his first bite of Remy's ratatouille and is transported back to his childhood. The feelings of comfort and home overwhelms the great Anton Ego into waiting hours to meet the chef who is from very humble origins himself.
Recipe by Smitten Kitchen
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 cup tomato puree
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small eggplant
1 smallish zucchini
1 smallish yellow squash
1 longish red bell pepper
Few sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
Few tablespoons soft goat cheese, for serving
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Pour tomato puree into bottom of an oval baking dish, approximately 10 inches across the long way. Drop the sliced garlic cloves and chopped onion into the sauce, stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil and season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.
- 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.
- Atop the tomato sauce, 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.
- Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside. (Tricky, I know, but the hardest thing about this.)
- Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, 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 with a dab of soft goat cheese on top, alone, or with some crusty French bread, atop polenta, couscous, or your choice of grain