Ratatouille’s Rat • a • too • ee

We were in Portland, Oregon, a few weeks ago and while ordering coffee and pastries for breakfast at Little T American Bakery, our eyes gazed over towards their lunch menu.  Low and behold, there was a ratatouille panini sandwich with goat cheese.  My mouth began to salivate.  A lot.  If only it was lunch time, as I thought to myself.  I’m pretty sure that thought was mutual between the both of us.  Before we left with our coffee and breakfast, I muttered under my breath that I had to HAVE that.  Well, unfortunately, we never had a chance to make it back to Little T’s for lunch.  But it’s been on my mind ever since.

I was feeling inspired to make ratatouille when we were perusing all the different varieties of squash, eggplant, and bell peppers that the farmer’s market had to offer.  I mean, how hard could it be to make ratatouille?  If a rat can do it, then so can I! 😉

This was really fun and easy to make.  I only wish I had a better mandoline.  I purchased a Pamper Chef mandoline a few years ago only because a friend swore by hers.  I have yet to find it useful.  It’s the most clumsiest kitchen tool that I own.  Ugh.  I tried to use it again today, but after a minute of frustration, I decided to slice the vegetables with a knife.  It came out fine, but the vegetables were a little uneven.  And being the most anal person that I am, it bugged me that they weren’t all exactly the same thickness.  In fact, it still bugs me.  But I’m trying to get over it.  Anyhow, this dish has reminded me to get rid of the Pampered Chef mandoline, and to invest in a REAL mandoline.  Basically, I love any reason to buy new kitchen toys… I mean, tools 🙂

[p.s. Try to buy vegetables all within the same diameter.  As you can see in the picture, the zucchini I used was a lot smaller in diameter when compared to the rest of the vegetables.  So I had to use three zucchini in place of one medium to large zucchini.]

[p.p.s. if you like ratatouille, you should try my roasted ratatouille bisque with parmesan crisps… I’m know, such a shameless plug.]

Ratatouille’s Rat • a • too • ee (slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

1/2 small yellow onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup tomato puree (such as Pomi)
1 medium Italian eggplant (small in diameter)
1 medium zucchini (small in diameter)
1 medium yellow squash (small in diameter)
1 longish red bell pepper
1 (15-ounce) can San Marzano Tomato Puree
Extra virgin olive oil
Few sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
Few tablespoons soft goat cheese, for serving

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Pour tomato puree into bottom of an oval [or whatever you have on hand… I used a square baking dish] baking dish. Drop the minced garlic and chopped onion into the sauce, stir in one tablespoon of the olive oil and season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.

Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. As carefully as you can, trim the ends off the red pepper and remove the core, leaving the shape intact.

On a mandoline, adjustable-blade slicer or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.

Atop the tomato sauce, arrange slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. [If you have a handful of sliced vegetables left over, don’t fret… just make another ratatouille! Trust me. You’ll want leftovers!]

Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish.

Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside [or over it, which is what I did. I didn’t have the patience to cut the parchment paper to fit and it came out just fine.]

Bake for approximately 45 to 50 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp. They should not be brown at the edges, and you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them.

Serve with a dab of soft goat cheese on top, alone with a little tomato sauce drizzled around the plate, on pasta, or pressed into a panini sandwich with some good crusty bread. Yum.