January 27, 2012
Oven Roasted Ratatouille
Have you seen the kids movie Ratatouille?
Its one of my favourites, it's about love of family, friends, food, and belief in self. What's not to love, right?
Whoever wrote this movie must have spent some time researching a commercial kitchen, the way the chefs work together, the way they move, the setup, and if you look closely you'll even see burns and nicks on the hands and wrists of the chefs as well. Very convincing- even if the idea of a cooking rat isn't!
As a matter of fact, the only food I will give a rat would be some baits chucked in the ceiling! Our neighbour has bird aviaries and we have had a few issues with scrabbling sounds in the ceiling lately... I hope it's a possum!
Ratatouille is also a very delicious vegetable dish, traditionally from France where it's served as a lovely vegetable stew of eggplant (aubergine), capsicum (bell pepper), zucchini (courgette), onions in a herbed tomato (to-may-to) base.
There are a couple of versions around, with some people stewing it all together at once, some sauteing some of the vegetables separately, and some layering the vegetables in a pretty design then baking them.
That's all very well, but I don't like veggies all squished together, or all stewed together where the flavour just amalgamates into one homogeneous taste. I like my veggies to stand alone, bound together lightly with a combining sauce while they still retain their stuctual integrity.
Not too fussy, am I?
I came up with this version of a classic when I was working in a huge commercial kitchen. I needed to make vast quantities quickly and easily while striving to keep flavour and freshness for a day or two before serving, then keeping the dish attractive in a chafing-dish for an hour while serving.
Not to fussy either, hey?
Of course by far the easiest way would be to chuck everything in a big pan and cook it. But that just wasn't right. All the veggies cook at their own pace, and by the time one was cooked others would be mush. There had to be a better way.
Thus I came up with my Oven Roasted Ratatouille. I think it looks better, holds better, and even tastes better too! But don't tell Remy or Linguine on me, promise?
Oven Roasted Ratatouille
Tomato- canned, paste or pasatta
Red Wine Vinegar
Splash of Wine
Cut all the fresh veggies into similar sized chunks. The size should depend on how long you wish to bake them, and how big a piece you can fit comfortably into your mouth! I took the opportunity to use up a heap of my threatening-to-take-over-the-yard cherry tomatoes, so I cut the veggies to match. Don't forget the cubes will shrink down while roasting so don't get too carried away!
Drizzle with olive oil and liberally dust with Tuscan Seasoning. Of course feel free to use beautiful fresh herbs, but this is one of my secret shortcuts that I learnt in a not-too-fancy commercial kitchen that works out fine in this recipe.
Bake the little veggies at about 180* until tender, timing depends on the size of your veggies. The eggplant cooks fastest, the onion takes the longest- you don't want it raw. The tomatoes will collapse beautifully becoming rich and condensed, yumm..
While the veggies are cooking, make the sauce.
You don't want a lot of sauce. The veggies- especially the tomatoes, will bring a lot of juice of their own, and you don't want them to drown.
Pop the tinned tomatoes/ pasassata, or some tomato paste in a pan big enough for all the veggies, with a good splash of wine (any colour- I had a pink open so it's what I chose) and a smaller splash of red wine vinegar. You want a sweet but tangy flavour going on.
Bring it to the boil to pull the flavours together.
One of the good things with this dish is that you can pre-make the veggies and sauce to this point, them let them sit in the fridge for a day or two until needed.
Pop the veggies into the sauce and stir through to combine and heat evenly.
Taste for seasoning, the Tuscan Seasoning mix has salt and sugar in it plus the herbs, so it's definitely a case of taste-as-you-go.
Serve as a side dish, wrapped in a crepe, or as a lovely vegetarian meal.
So Dear Readers, what's your favourite children's movie?