In addition to cooking, I love a good cooking film! Chef, Big Night and Ratatouille are a few of my favorites. They are my favorites because the passion for cooking exhibited in these films comes through so strong. They give me all the feels. They make me want to be a chef. They inspire me to be a better cook. So, every now and then I like to create dishes that are showcased in these films. The egg sandwich from the film Spanglish has become a staple in my house. The pasta from the film No Reservations is a quick and affordable go to in a pinch. Cooks find inspiration from all sorts of sources and experiences. It’s nice to see that kind of passion story, however varying, in film. And this week, the items in my Fresh Box and a mention of ratatouille (the dish and the film) by my mom, inspired me to go for it and dictated that I make the classic dish.

Ratatouille is another high prep dish. Chopping and slicing abound so make sure you have your most comfortably held and sharp knife ready to go! This is another one of those wow dishes when it’s done. It is impressive both in presentation and taste. But, if you’re in a hurry and don’t feel like all the pretty is necessary, just chop all the veggies into medium chunks and cook together as a stew (add the veggies in a similar order to the way you would in the recipe below), adding fresh herbs toward the end of the cooking – keep the heat around medium temp. Serve with crispy bread or over pasta. Yum! And, if you’re wanting to make the dish pretty, just follow the steps below.

“If you are what you eat, then I only want to eat the good stuff.” – Remy

Ratatouille

Prep Time:  30 Minutes

Cook Time: 20 Minutes (Cast Iron Sauce) 45 Minutes (Baking Time)

Yields: 6-8 Servings

Ingredients (bold ingredients found in your Fresh Box this week):

  • 2 medium Yellow Squash (thinly sliced rounds)
  • 2 Neon Eggplants (thinly sliced rounds)
  • 1 medium/large Green Bell Pepper (medium diced)
  • 1 medium/large Yellow Bell Pepper (medium diced)
  • 1 medium/large Orange Bell Pepper (medium diced)
  • 4-5 Roma Tomatoes (thinly sliced rounds)
  • 6 cloves of Garlic (finely chopped)
  • 1 large Zucchini (thinly sliced rounds)
  • 1 large Red Onion (medium diced)
  • 1 28 oz. can of San Marzano Tomatoes (whole)
  • 8-10 medium leaves of Fresh Basil (julienned)
  • 4 large sprigs of Fresh Thyme (pulled and chopped)
  • 6-8 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 2 TBSP Salt
  • 2 TBSP Black Pepper

Instructions for prepping the veggies and making your base sauce:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
  2. While your oven is preheating, start by getting out your cast iron pan or a deep pan that can go into the oven after cooking stove top. Go ahead and get your pan heating (low to medium-low). Once you feel the heat come through the pan by hovering your hand over it, add a few TBSP of olive oil and kick up the heat to a solid medium.
  3. While all that heat is happening, let’s prep those veggies! Each style of prep is noted in the ingredient list. I recommend starting with the onions, garlic, and bell peppers as these are the first into the heated pan.
  4. First add the onions and let them cook down for a couple minutes, then add the garlic and once you start to smell the garlic, throw in the peppers and a pinch of salt and pepper. Stir everything around every couple minutes and while those veggies cook, you can prep the rest.
  5. As you slice each type of veggie (eggplants, zucchini, yellow squash and roma tomatoes), keep them together in their own stacks (easier to layer later).
  6. The veggies in the cast iron pan should be bright and starting to tender. Go ahead and add the can of San Marzano tomatoes – include all contents of the can. Then crush the whole tomatoes and stir them in with the vegetables, again adding a decent amount of salt and pepper. (what you have is essentially a spaghetti sauce – you can use an immersion blender to smooth out the sauce, but I like it chunky so I skip this step)
  7. Let the sauce simmer for a few, add ¾ of the julienned basil and pull off the heat.

Instructions for assembly:

  1. Once the sauce cools off just a bit (stops bubbling and has reduced), it’s time to assemble the veggie layer rounds!
  2. I make multiple stacks of the four veggies (yellow squash – eggplant – tomato – zucchini). Then I gather up 4-6 stacks at a time and place the layers in a circular design around the cast iron pan directly on top of the sauce. (see pics). Start from the outside in…

Instructions for preparing the herb topping and finishing the dish:

  1. Grab a small bowl and combine 4 TBSP olive oil, ¼ of the julienned basil, the chopped thyme and a pinch of salt and a couple grinds of black pepper. Mix well.
  2. Drizzle the herb topping evenly over the layered veggies.
  3. Cover the cast iron pan with foil and put into the preheated oven (on a middle rack). Set your timer for 35 minutes.
  4. When you timer sounds, check your dish, remove the foil, and put the pan on the top rack. Reset your timer for 5 minutes.
  5. Set your oven to Broil on High and keep close watch of your dish (seriously, check it every minute) for about 3-5 minutes. The veggies will be slightly browned, and the sauce will have reduced even more.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven (always better to use both hands to remove a cast iron pan – they are hot and heavy!)
  7. Let the dish set for about 10 minutes. In the meanwhile, toast up some crispy bread to serve with.

I used my toaster to toast a thick-sliced, seeded bread. I scooped up the ratatouille right on top of the toast and sprinkled with Romano cheese (you can sprinkle nutritional yeast if vegan, or just skip the cheese factor). I realized that I didn’t need the cheese at all. The vegetables were tender but had great texture and the sauce had such a complex flavor, and the crunch of the toast was delish!

I’m just so pleased with the ingredients in my Fresh Box week after week. They are inspiring so many dishes, new and old. I find myself going back to old recipes and reinventing them, while jumping into entirely new dishes as well. I feel connected to the farmers and confident that I’m getting the freshest ingredients available in my local area. It’s awesome. I’d love to hear how y’all are using your boxes! What kind of dishes are they inspiring in your home? It’s great to see your posts on social media, and feel free to share in the comments below as well.

“[Humans] don’t just survive; they discover; they create. … I mean, just look at what they do with food!” – Remy