Clearly, I was wrong. Ratatouille has one of the cutest and most creative story lines (realism, on the other hand, is not its strength). Paris and cooking and cute art = everything I love.
Comfort of Cooking. Ratatouille (pronouned ra-tuh-TOO-ee) is a traditional French stewed vegetable dish, usually a side dish, that originated in Nice. There are several methods on how to make ratatouille. One is to simply sauté all of the vegetables together. Another is to layer the vegetables in a casserole and bake in an oven; the third is to layer it and then simmer in a pot for a stew (info from Wiki and GourmetSleuth). Although it's somewhat tedious cutting everything, the layered version was just too pretty not to try.
1/2 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 can tomato puree plus 1/4 cup diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small eggplant, such as Italian or Chinese
1 yellow squash
1 red bell pepper
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Pour tomato puree into bottom of an oval baking dish, approximately 10 inches across the long way. Drop the sliced garlic cloves and chopped onion into the sauce, stir in oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, one tablespoon of the olive oil, and season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.
Trim the ends off the eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. Trim the top of the red pepper and remove the core.
On a mandoline, adjustable-blade slicer or with a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash and red pepper into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.
Atop the tomato sauce, arrange slices of prepared vegetables concentrically from the outer edge to the inside of the baking dish, overlapping so just a smidgen of each flat surface is visible, alternating vegetables. You may have a handful leftover that do not fit.
Drizzle the remaining tablespoon olive oil over the vegetables and season them generously with salt and pepper. Remove the leaves from the thyme sprigs with your fingertips, running them down the stem. Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the dish.
Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside.
Bake for approximately 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they are not totally limp. They should not be brown at the edges, and you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them.
Serve with a dab of soft goat cheese on top, alone, or with some crusty French bread, atop polenta, couscous, or your choice of grain.