It’s the week of Bastille Day!!! Which is a major holiday in France. I’d heard of it before, but I never really knew its significance until I briefly researched it a few weeks ago when I was asked to create some authentic French recipes for a client. It’s the French National Holiday, and it’s widely celebrated with fireworks at the Eiffel Tower, French Air Force aerobatics, and of course, lots of food and wine. In short, it’s a very big deal over there. I was so excited to work on some new dishes for the project, and the first one that came to mind for me was a rustic and classic ratatouille, because I’ve always wanted to spiral it out for effect like I did here, and I was anything but disappointed with the result…
Before we talk about how easy this seemingly complicated (at least visually) recipe is, I absolutely have to talk about the Pixar movie Ratatouille because it is one of my most favorite movies ever. It came out right after Sophia was born, and it was gifted to me as the very first movie to start our children’s collection…and rightfully so. If you don’t know anything about the movie, here’s a quick overview. It’s about an adorable little French mouse named Remy who has highly enhanced senses of taste and smell. While the other rats in the movie are fine eating scraps of whatever they can find, Remy almost can’t even contain himself as he describes what happens when you put the flavor of deliciously rich cheese together with the sweetness of a fresh strawberry. He enters an almost euphoric state talking about it that you can honestly feel through the screen and it makes me happy every single time I see it.
Side note, speaking of movie scenes that make you feel something, the very first scene in Julie & Julia may very well be my most favorite ‘someone having an almost orgasmic moment upon tasting food for the first time’ scene in a movie EVER…if you consider that a category (which I clearly do). I enjoy it so much that I’m linking to it here so that you can watch it yourself if you’ve not seen it. Every single thing about that scene of the movie is pure cinematic perfection, from the way that Meryl Streep becomes physically breathless and speechless after barely getting out the word ‘butter’, to the way that Stanley Tucci lovingly places his hand on her arm while repeating ‘I know’ over and over again with empathy. It’s just so incredibly beautiful and relatable to me and I’ll never tire of it.
But getting back to this ratatouille…
The final scene in the movie Ratatouille is of Remy creating this dish for a very important and not so easy to please restaurant critic. There’s a lot of pressure on the meal being perfect for him because it could determine the fate of the restaurant’s success. So, Remy decides to take this very rustic and simple recipe, and present it in a new and modern way, with beautiful layers baked to perfection. Every since watching him frisbee-like toss the vegetables into the pan, stack them beautifully onto the plate to serve, and then watching the critic named Ego take that first bite which takes him nostalgically back to childhood, and makes him drop his pen in disbelief of how good the food makes him feel, I’ve wanted to make a layered ratatouille myself. Hence, the presentation of it here.
It’s deceptively simple, and worth every second of making. Everyone loved it so much, there was hardly any left by the time it actually made it to the table. So we ate it over some pasta with bread and salad on the side, and everyone was happy. If you’re on the fence about trying it out, here is the scene of it being prepared in the movie for some inspiration 🙂 ENJOY!
- 2/3 cup fine diced yellow onion
- 4 garlic cloves, sliced paper thin
- 1 1/2 cups tomato puree
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 small eggplants
- 2 small zucchini
- 2 small yellow squash
- 2 long red bell pepper
- 2 teaspoons Herbs de Provence
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pour the tomato puree into the bottom of a 10-inch cast iron skillet and spread around the pan with a spatula or flat spoon. Evenly sprinkle the onion and garlic over top of the tomato, and then drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil around the entire layer.
- Use a mandoline, or a very sharp knife, to carefully slice the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, and red pepper in to 1/16 inch slices. Take a few moments to dedicate yourself to making this dish visually appealing. It doesn't have to be perfect, just get those veggies in there! Line them up, side by side either in concentric circles, or haphazardly. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil over top the entire pan, evenly sprinkle the Herbs de Provence all around, and then season with a very generous sprinkle of salt and pepper.
- Cut and place a circle of parchment paper over top of the veggies to cover them and help them steam. Place the pan into the oven for 45 minutes before checking for doneness. Remove the parchment paper for the last 5 minutes of cooking, and...ENJOY!
I love serving this overtop a bed of angel hair pasta...with crusty bread of course.