Let me paint the scene.
I’m at work.
It’s really, crazy busy.
Ok, ok one of those things is a lie and I’m pretty sure it’s not the day of the week. Although, I have been known to think Fridays are Tuesdays and Wednesdays are October.
What do you do at work when there’s nothing to do at work? Other than be the best employee ever? Going above and beyond? And then beyond that?
You talk about dinner with your coworkers.
In a daydream-y way. Wistfully. Forlornly.
Wait. Not forlornly. I think I’m thinking of the word “fork.” Yup. Fork.
There is nothing forlorn about shooting the shit about dinner. I mean, it’s almost magical? There are no boundaries of a grocery store, no bearded lanky dude in a beanie telling you “no man, we don’t have organic lemongrass today. Fresh out.” You can mentally prep yourself to make anything ever. Basically what I’m saying is I’m pretty sure this is what Outback Steakhouse means when it says “No Rules. Just Right.”
That’s what daydreaming about what you’re making for dinner is all about.
So what was I mies en place-ing in my mind while brainstorming casserole variations for a coworker?
Here are the things I knew about ratatouille before last Monday: it’s a fun word to say and spell, I’ve never not liked eating it when it’s come my way, and if you say “Ratatouille” in the mirror three times, that adorable rat from the movie will appear and help you out in the kitchen. Man. That’s a damn good movie.
I’m not sure if you noticed this or not but “I know what ratatouille is” was not one of the things I knew about ratatouille.
Funny story about the Union Square Whole Foods last Monday…It was out of food. Except if you want to make ratatouille. Coincidence? With the blizzard and the people needing their organic, farm raised, gold plated fruits and vegetables to live through the blizzard, there was nothing left. It was kind of creepy? It was really creepy.
I picked up the last eggplant, a dashing yellow squash, orange and red bell peppers that were honestly nicer looking than normal, a package of sliced Portobello mushrooms, and I swear to God the last can of chopped tomatoes in the entire store. The place was out of fingerling potatoes for fuck’s sake. I hope you all are eating your fingerling potatoes out there! BUT APPARENTLY YOU ARE.
This ratatouille was meant to be.
And so, the Monday dinner dream became a reality.
I can now say I know what ratatouille is and I get why I’ve always loved its celebrity cameos on my plate. It’s made of everything that is good.
But also mostly everything left in the produce department after a storm.
PS – my coworker ended up making a sandwich. But it did sound pretty good.
3/4 cup servings
Adapted from Tartelette
- 1/2 onion (100g), diced
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 eggplant (450g), cubed and tossed with a bit of cooking spray (you can peel the eggplant every alternating inch if you like)
- 1/2 yellow squash (250g), cubed and tossed with a bit of cooking spray
- 1 yellow bell pepper (175g), diced
- 1 red bell pepper (175g), diced
- 1 pack of portobello mushrooms (170g), chopped
- 3 whole garlic cloves
- 1 14oz can diced tomatoes
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 8oz vegetable stock or water (turns out I don’t have any more vegetable stock…)
- 2 teaspoons dried basil
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 teaspoon tarragon
- 1 teaspoon fennel seed
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Optional protein boost: vegan mozzarella cheese (I used Soy Kasa and was pleasantly surprised with how much it tasted like mozzarella)
When should the rat be arriving? Soon?
Preheat oven to 375.
In a large wok or a big pot, heat up some cooking spray over medium heat. Cook the onions until translucent. Add the minced garlic and eggplant and cook until the eggplant has softened and browned a bit. Add in the squash and keep on cooking. One the squash has softened, add the bell peppers and cook for a couple minutes, tossing the veggies here and there. Throw in the mushrooms, cook another minute and then add the tomatoes. Add the whole garlic cloves. Add the vinegar and stock or water. Stir stir stir. As you bring the mixture to a boil, add your herbs. Bring down to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Uncover, stir, adjust seasonings if needed, cover again and simmer for another 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, uncover, taste again, season if you like, and let it stew uncovered for another 20 minutes or until a majority of the liquid has been absorbed.
Pour your ratatouille mixture into a casserole pan or pie pan or mini pie tin/ramekin. Top with cheese if you like. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until it’s bubbly. Serve!