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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Baked Ratatouille

I keep trying to fit in summertime recipes even though it is November.

Many of us Americans think of a rather charming movie when we see the word "ratatouille". I especially liked the movie because there was a character who shares my name (and spells it the same way), the only time I've heard it used in a movie (that is what happens when you have an extraordinarily uncommon name).

When I see the word ratatouille I think of summer and one of the best vegetarian celebrations of garden vegetables there is. I've cooked it following two methods and this is my new favorite because it is so beautiful to look at. It takes some time arranging the various elements in a casserole dish, but the stove top method I follow takes a bit of time, too. (When all the vegetables get thrown together in a hurry, the dish isn't nearly as good.)


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Baked Ratatouille


Adapted from smittenkitchen.com
Serves 4 as a main dish bolstered with some pasta or couscous or 6 as a side dish

1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 c tomato puree
2 T olive oil, divided
1 small purple eggplant, the more narrow ones work best, although I cut a globe eggplant so it fit
1 thin zucchini, about 2-2 1/2 inches in diameter
1 thin yellow summer squash, about 2-2 1/2 inches in diameter
1 fairly long (and somewhat narrow) red or orange bell pepper
few sprigs fresh thyme, or a teas dried
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375F. Cut a piece of parchment paper that fits closely in an oval baking dish that is roughly 10 inches long. Measure it to fit the top, not the bottom.

Oil the bottom of the dish and pour in the tomato puree; sprinkle the garlic and chopped onion over the top. Stir in 1 T of the olive oil and season it all with generous amounts of salt and pepper.

Remove the ends of the eggplant and the squashes. Remove the ends off the bell pepper and remove the core, leaving the pepper in a tube. 

With a mandoline, if you have one, or with a sharp knife, cut the vegetables into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.

On top of the tomato sauce, arrange the slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the dish alternating vegetables. It is a little hard to get started  but you can lean the first slices against the edge; when you make the first ring, straighten things up. It will look best if you can manage to place the slices so a little bit of the vegetable shows at the top; this may entail a little bit of leaning, too. Don't worry if you have some vegetables left over.

Drizzle the remaining olive oil (1 T) over the vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Remove the leaves from the thyme stems and sprinkle them over the top (or sprinkle the dry thyme). 

Cover the dish with the prepared parchment paper.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, until the vegetables have released their liquid. You want them to be clearly cooked but not totally limp or mushy. Don't brown them at the edges but look for the tomato puree bubbling up around the vegetables.

Serve as a vegetable side. Or for a main dish serve with crusty bread or with a cooked grain, couscous, or a small pasta; I like it best with orzo.

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