Chef Thomas Keller created this special version of ratatouille when he consulted with Pixar studios on the film Ratatouille. I shamelessly capitalized on the appeal of the rat-chef, Remy, to get my 5 year old to eat lots of vegetables by cooking ratatouille in a much-simplified version of Keller’s recipe so that it would look like the dish in the film.
For the sauce (piperade)–
1 and ½ peppers (red, yellow, orange, or purple, seeded, ribbed, and chopped finely)
½ cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 tsp. minced garlic.
1 sprig each of thyme and parsley (or pinch each of the dried herbs)
1 bay leaf
Cook all slowly over medium heat in
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil until the onions are beginning to caramelize; then add 3 finely chopped tomatoes
Cook down for 10 or 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add salt to taste, the spread the sauce in the bottom of an ovenproof dish (about a 9” by 13” size), reserving about 1 tablespoon of the sauce.
Slice into very thin rounds (you may want to try and select vegetables of similar diameter—this is for visual appeal only.
1 long zucchini
1 Japanese (skinny!) eggplant
1 yellow squash similar in diameter and length to the zucchini
4 Roma tomatoes (or other dense, smallish tomatoes; I used Amish Paste)
Arrange the vegetables in the pan on top of the sauce, alternating 1 slice of zucchini, 1 slice eggplant, 1 slice yellow squash, 1 slice tomato—repeat, going back and forth or around and around in the dish, overlapping the vegetables so that each just peeks out behind the other. Don’t be too anxious about this part! Just do the best you can to layer the vegetables evenly.
Bake, covered with a lid or with foil, in a pre-heated 275 degree oven for 2 hours, then uncover and bake 30 minutes more. There should not be much liquid in the pan after the last 30 minutes of baking; if there is, put it on the stove on low heat to reduce the liquid. (This long, slow baking really develops the flavor of the vegetables and gives them a great texture.)
Meanwhile, combine the tablespoon of reserved sauce with:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Some fresh herbs (like chervil, thyme, basil, or parsley), minced
Season with Salt and Pepper to taste, and use as a vinagrette drizzle over the warm ratatouille. Couscous, quinoa cooked in broth, or plain steamed rice is delicious alongside; a fresh baguette would also be delicious!