Ratatouille sofrito w/ crispy eggplant

Ratatouille sofrito

I love the movie Ratatouille. I think it’s well-made, of course, but beyond that, it makes me happy to watch it. I’ve talked before about my fascination with the connection between food and memory, so the scene in which Anton Ego takes a bite of ratatouille and rockets back to his childhood appeals to me in every way! And there is something about ratatouille – its simplicity, its distinctive flavors. Ratatouille seems like the embodiment of summer at its height, when everything is plump and ripe at the same time, and glowing with possibilities. The fact that everything that grows together and ripens together and tastes so wonderful proves that there is a pattern, there is meaning and sense!

I decided to make a sort of distillation of ratatouille. An intense concentration of the flavors and textures, which uses wintery ingredients to produce a memory of summer. Obviously, I don’t have fresh tomatoes and peppers from the garden. I have a can of tomatoes and a jar of roasted reds- So I sofritoed it. In this way, you can still get a fix of warmth and sunshine to get you through the chilly months. I combined all the signature ratatouille ingredients – zucchini, tomato, red pepper and herbs – and I cooked them and cooked them until they were meltingly delicious and very very flavorful – almost like a chutney. I have to admit that I don’t really like mushy eggplant. I only like eggplant if it’s sliced thin and crisped up. Even in the summertime, when I make ratatouille – even if I get the eggplant right out of my garden – I don’t cook it with everything else. I slice it thin, bread it, and bake it in olive oil till it’s nice and crispy. And then it goes perfectly with the ratatouille!

So that’s the story about that. We ate it with slices of bread I’d baked with my OOTO spice mix (more about that later!) and some grated mozzarella. Malcolm made little sandwiches with eggplant on the outside and ratatouille and cheese on the inside. And we had a salad, of course! Baby spinach, baby arugula and some grape tomatoes.

Here’s a song from the ratatouille soundtrack. It’s a good soundtrack. No cheesy teen idols singing inane songs. Like on some other animated hits.

Eggplant prepared this way. I used two Italian eggplants, cut on diagonals in 1/4 inch ovals. For breading I used two pieces of whole wheat bread, crumbed, a bit of flour, some rosemary and some thyme. For a marinade I used simply olive oil, balsamic, rosemary, thyme and basil

1 zucchini – chopped in 1/3 inch dice
1/4 white wine
1 shallot – minced
2 cloves garlic – minced
2 T olive oil
1 can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1 cup chopped roasted red peppers – fresh or from a jar (In brine)
1 t basil
1 t thyme
1 t rosemary
1 T butter
1 T balsamic
salt and plenty of pepper.

In a large soup pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the shallot, cook till it starts to brown. Add the herbs and garlic. Cook for a minute or two. Add the zucchini and cook till it starts to soften and brown. 5- 10 minutes. Add the wine and cook till it gets a bit syrupy. Add the peppers. Cook for a minute or two. Add the tomatoes.

Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low. Cook for at least half an hour, till it’s reduced and releasing bright red oil on the edges. You can add a dash of water now and again to stop it drying out too much.

When it’s thick and intense… stir in balsamic, butter, salt and plenty of pepper.

Serve with the crispy eggplant, cheese if you like, and some crusty bread.

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