By now you have probably guessed it: last week was Spring Break! My children completely enjoyed their week out of school, especially since only 2 days were allowed for Spring Break last year because of all the snow that Mother Nature dumped on us. This time we hardly knew what to do with ourselves! We spent the week chilling out, enjoying playdates with friends, visiting museums, spending time with family, and basically having lots of fun. It was definitely nice not to have a schedule. Plus, it was a good trial run for summer – gotta get geared up for that!
After having neglected my blog, I’m returning with a great Meatless Monday recipe. With the arrival of spring I’m in the mood to cook colorful, fresh vegetables – how about you? Today’s recipe is an absolutely delicious ratatouille from the Smitten Kitchen. The website is filled with tons of mouth-watering recipes and the photography is simply stunning! This particular recipe was first introduced to me by my friend Kim (thanks, Kim!). If you have a minute, check out her excellent blog here!
(from Smitten Kitchen)
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 cup tomato puree
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 small eggplant
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow squash
1 red bell pepper
salt and pepper
soft goat cheese, optional
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pour the tomato puree into the bottom of a large oval baking dish. Add in the sliced garlic cloves, chopped onion, one tablespoon of the olive oil, and a generous amount of salt and pepper. Stir to combine.
Using a mandoline or a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, squash, and red pepper into very thin slices. Arrange sliced vegetables on top of tomato sauce working from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, ending in the center. Overlap and alternate vegetables (make it look pretty!).
Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the vegetables and season once again with salt and pepper. Sprinkle fresh thyme over the top.
Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the inside of your dish to cover vegetables. Bake for 45-55 minutes, until vegetables are cooked but still slightly firm and not mushy. You should be able to see the tomato sauce bubbling up.
Serve with goat cheese on top, if desired, or with your choice of rice, polenta, or any other grain.
I have to tell you, I was immediately taken with this recipe because of the French fanatic that I am. I dearly love the movie Ratatouille. If we had movie nights at our house (which we don’t – at least not yet), it would always be my pick. Also, I figured if this dish was a hit at Kim’s house surely it would be at mine too.
You can change up the recipe some if you like by adding in other colorful peppers. Sometimes I throw in a yellow pepper if I catch those on sale too…just whatever is bright and in season. There’s really no way to mess up the recipe. Sometimes I double the amount of tomato puree because my husband really loves the sauce. And sadly, I’ve never topped it with goat cheese, although I think that would be divine. Purchasing goat cheese is just a bit out of our budget at the moment!
As for the slicing of the vegetables, I am in heaven with my new Simple Slicer from Pampered Chef (thanks James and Sarah!). It slices superbly! If you don’t have one, I highly recommend it – it’s a step down from a mandoline, so it’s more friendly on your wallet.
I find it nearly impossible to find a small eggplant for this recipe. Typically, I do end up with leftover sliced vegetables, no matter how hard I try to make it all come out even. But, the leftover eggplant is great for eggplant parmesan, and I recently discovered during my meatless 40 days of Lent how tasty a hummus, squash, zucchini, roasted red pepper, spinach and cheese sandwich on whole wheat bread is. Honestly, just heat your squash and zucchini a little bit in the microwave and you’re good to go!
So far, my favorite grain with this dish is bulgar wheat. It adds a nice hearty texture, making the ratatouille a wholesome meal all on its own. I’ve never tried polenta, but I’m sure that would be good too.
Until next time,