“If you are what you eat, then I only want to eat the good stuff.” -Remy (Ratatouille)

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“If you are what you eat, then I only want to eat the good stuff.” – Remy

How true these sentiments are, even if they resonate from the mouth of an animated rat named Remy, who was conjured up by the dynamic duo of Disney and Pixar in yet another animated classic. Anyone who has seen Ratatouille was probably just as enthralled by Remy and his culinary exploits as I was. The movie chronicles the ebbs and flows of Remy’s cooking prowess, both inside and outside of the kitchen at a renowned Parisan restaurant. Remy forms a friendship with a fellow restaurant worker, Linguini, and provides the inspiration for many of the dishes that Linguini creates, seemingly on a whim (if only we could all cook like this). Without ruining too much of the plot, Remy’s ratatouille dish creates a lasting impact on essentially every character he encounters throughout the film.

Prior to watching this film, I can recount very few instances where I have been privy to ratatouille or the nature of the recipes contents. As I mentioned in another post, I was very averse to cooking vegetable-centered dishes until about a year ago when I was bestowed with Yotam Ottolengthi’s Plenty cookbook. After indulging in what I deemed the “a 5,000 calorie Easter meal” on April 20, I decided that I needed to impose a vegetable-heavy dish into my daily consumption. That’s where ‘Plenty‘ comes to the rescue – yet again.

Yotam’s Ratatouille is chalk full of vegetables: onion, bell pepper, green chile, parsnip, French beans, zucchini, eggplant, potato,  and tomato. There are many variations of this dish, especially now that vegetables have taken center stage in both cookbooks and the restaurant world. Yotam adds butternut squash to this variation, which only contributes positively to the rich and refreshing flavors that preside in this dish. The other ingredients can be found in most kitchens, provided you have stocked up on the basic kitchen essentials. The chopped cilantro for garnish is a must, as it adds mightily to the aesthetics and final taste.

The downside to this dish is that between prep time and cooking time, it took me about 2 hours from start to finish. If you can, chop the vegetables ahead of time to save time. Other than that, it is a bonafide winner. Yotam also notes to, “follow the instructions closely; overcooking the vegetables is exactly the point here.”

*I also have to give a nod to both Disney and Pixar for animating yet another masterpiece, in terms of the film itself and the fact that the animated version of ratatouille made me actually want to cook this recipe. Only Disney and Pixar could drum up a dish so appetizing and worthy of re-creation.

I doubled this recipe with the intention of having leftovers and it pays off big time, as the longer it sits, the better it gets. I was pleasantly surprised to find that ratatouille performs just as well as a breakfast side as it does as a stand-alone snack.

Make this dish ahead of time and enjoy during a viewing of Ratatouille for the full effect.

*Side note: I am currently reading Steve Jobs, so this ode to the late Jobs, Disney, and Pixar just seemed right.

Yotam Ottolengthi’s Ratatouille 
Recipe taken from Plenty
Serves 4

7 tbsp. sunflower oil
2 small onions, cut into 1 1/4-inch dice
garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 fresh green chile, thinly sliced
2 small red peppers, cut into 1 1/4-inch dice
1/2 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 1/4-inch dice
1 small parsnip, peeled and cut into 1 1/4-inch dice
1 cup French beans, trimmed
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1 1/4-inch dice
1/2 large eggplant, peeled and cut into 1 1/4-inch dice
1 small potato, peeled and cut into 1 1/4-inch dice
2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. tomato paste
salt and black pepper
1 cup water
chopped cilantro to garnish

Pour two-thirds of the oil into a large heavy casserole dish or pot and place on medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Next, stir in the garlic, chile, and red peppers and fry for another 5 minutes. Add the squash and parsnip and continue frying for 5 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, lift the vegetables out of the pot and into a medium bowl, leaving as much of the oil in the pot as possible. Top this up with the remaining oil. Add the French beans, zucchini, and eggplant to the hot oil and fry for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Return the contents of the bowl to the pot. Add the potato, tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste and plenty of salt and pepper. Stir well, then pour in the water, or just enough to half-cover the vegetables. Cover with a lid and leave to simmer gently for 30 minutes. Taste the vegetables and add more salt and pepper, if you like.

Finally, preheat the oven to 400 F. Use a slotted spoon to gently lift the vegetables from the pot and into a large, deep roasting pan to make a layer about 1 1/4 inches thick. Pour the liquid over the vegetables and place in the oven to cook for 30 minutes. At this point all the vegetables should be very soft and most of the liquid evaporated. Garnish with cilantro.

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