Friday, July 13, 2007

Ratatouille: The Movie vs the Food

Given my pleasure I derive from movies and from cooking, I was pretty excited about Ratatouille (pronounced rat-a-too-wee), a cute Pixar movie about a rat who wants to be a chef. We saw a few minutes advertised on our Tivo, and it was great. However, I'm having a hard time getting past the whole "rat touching my food" thing. I'm sure the rat has washed it's little rat hands and is the model of cleanliness, but it's still hard to reconcile. So while I wish we could go see it, I'm also slightly glad that we can't. Of course, we'll get it on DVD eventually, but at least I can close my eyes or forward easier than if we were at a theatre.

The movie does seem very meticulous. I heard an interview on KCRW's The Treatment with director Brad Bird, and he said the animators actually worked at Thomas Keller's legendary French Laundry in order to learn the nuances and shortcuts taken by professional chefs (e.g., efficiency via minimal movements). Mr. Keller designed the movie's stylized ratatouille, and even appears in a cameo role as the voice of a patron at Gusteau's, per IMDB.

That said, every time I see an ad for the movie, the thing I want the ratatouille. It makes me hungry. My husband makes a delicious version, and it's so easy.

The prep time is minimal since nothing is chopped up finely. I prefer small eggplant because you want to leave skin on each cube to avoid having it dissolve to mush. Besides that, we're pretty loose with the ingredients. If you don't like zucchini, use more squash. Add some more color with different bell peppers. Whatever you do, make a lot because it's great for leftovers and freezing.

Olive Oil
2 onions, roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 summer squash, cubed
2 bell peppers, cut into thin strips,
2 small or 1 large eggplant, cubed
2 zucchini, cubed
2 cans of diced tomatoes
Italian seasoning (optional)
1 tablespoon tomato paste

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the diced onions with a pinch of salt and sweat for about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes. Add all of the vegetables at once, followed by the tomatoes and the tomato paste. If the diced tomatoes are not seasoned, add the seasoning and salt to taste. Don't stir, just let everything steam on low heat for about 20 minutes (or until the vegetables are to your liking). Longer than that might result in overcooked (aka mushy) vegetables.