Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Because vegetables need more love...

Posted by Bonita

As I patiently...or not so patiently...await for the DVD release of Pixar's Ratatouille, I suddenly had a craving for said-dish this past Sunday. It was also a coincidence that when I went for my grocery run Sunday morning, I found some lovely eggplants and zucchini on sale.

The word "ratatouille" comes from the French word touiller, which literally translates "to stir", and thus, can be translated to something like to stir or to toss together vegetables. Ratatouille originated in Nice, a Mediterranean city on the south coast of France. Traditionally, a ratatouille contains eggplants, zucchini, bell peppers, tomatoes, fresh herbs, onions and garlic, all sauteed in some olive oil.

I love ratatouille. There is nothing more comforting than a hearty stew, and since I absolutely adore my vegetables, I can never get enough of this dish. I always like to make a big batch of it and throw some in the freezer for a quick dinner fix on my supper busy nights. Furthermore, it's so easy to make and it's so good for you since it's packed with so many vegetables. The highlight to this dish though is the colour. You get such a beautiful colour combination, from the red of the tomatoes and peppers to the green of the zucchini.

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My ratatouille is a little less traditional. I do put in the basic elements of a ratatouille, but I also threw in some sliced mushrooms, since I had some sitting around in my fridge, begging to be thrown into some dish. I also love to add a heaping spoonful of fennel seed to the dish; the licorice-flavour of the seeds adds a unique and surprising flavour to the dish. I like to serve my ratatouille with some freshly chopped basil, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, along with some warm, crusty bread or couscous.

Speaking of couscous, I had some leftover butternut squash from my dinner party the other day that I didn't throw into my risotto. Having no idea what to do with them, I searched around for a recipe and came across a recipe in Donna Hay's Off The Shelf for a Couscous Salad with Butternut Squash and Snowpeas. I used that recipe as inspiration and made some alterations here and there, but the end result was a really light and refreshing salad.

To roast my diced squash, I just placed them on a large sheet of aluminum foil, drizzled over some olive oil, seasoned with some salt and pepper and placed 1 peeled clove of garlic and 3 fresh sage leaves on top. Wrapped the sides of the foil up to make a package and threw it into a 400°F oven for about 35 minutes, or until tender.

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Meanwhile, I "cooked" my couscous and blanched my snowpeas. When the butternut squash was done, I just tossed everything together, along with some chopped fresh parsley and grated lemon zest. Poured the citrus dressing on top (lemon juice, whole-grain or Dijon mustard, honey and olive oil) and tossed. So simple to put together, plus it'll be easy to carry around all day tomorrow in my bag until I can enjoy it for dinner!

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