When Evie was about 16 months old, she saw her first movie. It was a morning with an early wake up, and Nico turned on the tv in our room so she could watch something and we could keep our eyes closed a few minutes longer. He found Pixar's Ratatouille. I was not pleased, because I had been saying all along, "we will NOT let our kids get sucked into all things Disney!" But when I saw how adorable this movie was, I decided Pixar was ok. (We are now owned by the Disney Princess machine. It found us and we are in it.)
Since she first saw the movie, Evie has been in love with all things cooking and Paris. She sees an image of the Eiffel Tower somewhere and she screams, "Mama! Paris!" I love it and can't wait to bring her to Paris someday. She also loves helping me in the kitchen, or cooking a meal for me at her little wooden kitchen set. She also called the movie "Tooey" for the longest time. The adults in the house still call it Tooey.
I knew it was only a matter of time before she asked me to make ratatouille for her. I honestly didn't think it would be 3 years later. But a few weeks ago, she asked. I told her that of course I'd make it and she could help. I decided against telling her what was in it until the time came. I knew this amount of vegetables would not be her thing.
I think it was a success. It was more work than I anticipated this simple dish to be. But even though it was more steps than I'd cared for, it came together rather quickly, I thought. So easy, a rat could do it.
Ratatouille (a la Ratatouille)
for this dish I adapted from Thomas Keller's Confit Byaldi (which was the actual inspiration for the animated version that appeared in the film) and from smitten kitchen for the addition of cous cous and goat cheese. Yum!
For the Piperade
1/2 red pepper, seeds and ribs removed
1/2 yellow pepper, seeds and ribs removed
1/2 orange pepper, seeds and ribs removed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
3 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely diced, juices reserved
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig flat-leaf parsley
1 bay leaf
For the vegetables, all sliced into 1/16-inch rounds
1 yellow squash
1 red pepper, seeds and ribs removed
4 Roma tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon garlic
1/8 teaspoon thyme leaves
ground black pepper
For the vinaigrette
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
minced fresh chervil and thyme
kosher salt and black pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place pepper halves on piece of foil, cut side down. Roast until skins loosen, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest until cool enough to handle. (Tip: I place my roasted peppers in a ziplock bag to help the skins release from the pepper.) After cooled and peeled, chop the peppers finely.
Combine oil, garlic and onion in a medium sauté pan over low heat and cook until soft but not browned. Add tomatoes, juices, thyme and parsley sprigs, and bay leaf. Simmer over low heat until soft and very little liquid remains, about 10 minutes. Add peppers and simmer to soften. Season to taste with salt and pepper, discard the herbs. At this point, I decided to toss the whole mixture into a the food processor, although Thomas Keller did not. Process until smooth. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the sauce and spread the remainder in the bottom of an 8 inch casserole dish or oven proof skillet.
Reduce oven heat to 275 degrees. Arrange the vegetable slices in a concentric circle over the piperade, alternating slices and overlapping the slices. Repeat until the pan is filled. I did not use all the vegetable slices.
Mix garlic, oil, and thyme leaves in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle over vegetables. Cover the pan with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit your pan. Bake until vegetables are tender, about an hour and a half. Uncover and bake 30 minutes more. If you want the dish to be a little browned, place under the broiler briefly. I did not need to do this.
Mix the vinaigrette in a separate bowl by combining the reserved piperade, oil, vinegar, herbs, salt and ppepper.
Serve the ratatouille with a drizzle of vinaigrette. A bed of cous cous and a pinch of goat cheese are a delightful accompaniment.