I don't usually go to the movies, and even more unlikely is one that actually inspires me, but I have to say "Ratatouille" was not only inspirational on a culinary level but funny and entertaining for children and adults, especially those of us in the restaurant business.
This past weekend my wife and I had the rare pleasure of taking our son to see his first movie and we had a blast. I highly recommend seeing this movie.
Ratatouille is a popular dish from the French region of Provence that combines eggplant, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, garlic and fresh herbs. It can be cooked together or separately and then combined and heated briefly. You can serve this dish as an appetizer or a main course.
Makes 4 servings
4 ripe beefsteak tomatoes
1 Japanese eggplant
2 sweet onions
4 leaves of fresh basil, chopped
2 sprigs of fresh thyme, picked off the stem
1/2-cup of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Roasted red pepper and garlic puree
3 red bell peppers
6 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil
For this version of ratatouille, we are going to cook everything separately then heat it briefly before serving.
First, start cooking the tomatoes since they will take the longest to cook.
Cut each tomato in half and then each half into three wedges. In a bowl, gently mix the tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of olive oil, basil and thyme, salt and pepper to taste. Lay them out on a baking tray and cook in your oven at 300 degrees for 30 minutes, then set to the side.
Next, we are will start the roasted red pepper and garlic puree.
In a bowl, coat the red peppers and garlic with olive oil. Place the peppers on another baking tray and cook in your oven at 400 degrees for 25 minutes. Half way through the 25 minutes add the garlic to the baking tray and continue cooking. When done, place the peppers in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap and set to the side. Set the roasted garlic to the side.
Now, get the grill hot and clean off the grates with oil.
Slice the eggplant, zucchini and onion all 1/4 inch thick, coat each piece with olive oil and season each with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Place on the grill for 2 minutes on each side, turn the flame down and cover for most of the cooking time. When they are done, gently remove them with a spatula onto another baking tray and set to the side.
Now we will make the roasted red pepper and garlic puree.
Remove the plastic wrap from the bowl and gently peel the burnt skin from the peppers, discard the stem and seeds from inside. Place the roasted garlic and roasted peppers in a blender and puree for 1 minute. Hold in the blender until ready to retain the heat.
Once everything is cooked and your puree is ready to go, place the tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant and onions on one baking tray and back into the oven at 400 degrees for 3 minutes. Now it's ready to plate.
Lay four plates out and place six pieces of tomatoes in the center of each plate, then alternate slices of onion, zucchini eggplant, trying to imitate a spiral staircase on each plate.
Spoon the roasted pepper and garlic puree in an artistic way around each plate and you're done.
Tips and techniques
Presentation is key in this dish so take as long as you need to make each plate perfect. It can be served hot, warm or room temperature.
Try to select vegetables that are the same width to keep the dish symmetrical.
I would serve a bottle of Joseph Phelps cabernet sauvignon from Napa, Calif., with this dish, because of its great concentration and complexity.
Contact Chris Kennedy at Seasoned Catering at (561) 351-0221, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.