Thankful for Ratatouille
Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012
Updated: Thursday, November 8, 2012 22:11
What are you thankful for? I’m thankful for being in good health and I attribute part of that to my parents making me eat vegetables since I was little.
My parents grew up in the poor, rural parts of the Philippines and they made sure I knew that. They’d point at a chicken being served for dinner and say, “Back home, meat was a luxury. I’d be lucky to get a leg.” Every morning and afternoon they’d work on the farm and ate what wasn’t for sale. Unfortunately, this included ampalaya, a bitter melon that you’ve probably never heard of. My parents grew it in our backyard and there were many nights when I dreaded dinner. But now that I’m older, my taste buds have matured and eating it actually brings back silly memories of proudly finishing the little dollop I put on my plate and then my dad would proudly put more.
I feel the same way about eggplant. If I thought serving ampalaya was cruel, my mom’s eggplant was even worse. While she was cooking dinner, the tantalizing smell of bacon would lure me out of my room and I’d eagerly set the table. I’d take a peak at what I hoped was bacon and find sautéed sliced eggplant with soy sauce instead. I hated eggplant. What a buzzkill. I’d rather eat sardines (Ligo) for dinner.
But as with ampalaya, my taste buds have matured and I recently discovered a new recipe using eggplant: ratatouille. Yes, the dish in the adorable animated rat movie. It is actually one of my sous-chef’s signature dishes. The same guy who asked me how to mince garlic knew how to make a supposedly complicated-but-divine dish judging by the Disney movie. But, it really is so easy that even a rat could make it!
1 eggplant (I prefer the thin, light purple Asian eggplant)
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (I prefer the petite diced tomatoes)
1 green bell pepper
1 small onion
¼ cup chicken broth
3-4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp oil
Black pepper and basil for seasoning
An important aspect of this dish is the eggplant; the texture and taste is tricky. To make it easier, I used the thin, light purple Asian eggplant (found at HEB) instead of the fatter, dark purple traditional eggplant. I also dehydrated the chopped eggplant by pouring kosher salt over them and pressing a paper towel to soak up the juice. If you don’t dehydrate the eggplant, it may come out chewy and tough.
Unlike in the movie where the vegetables are thinly sliced, this recipe calls for chopping the vegetables. (Be sure to peel the skin off the eggplant first.) Next, pour oil in a pan and set to medium heat. Mince the garlic and cook with the chopped onion until tender. Stir in the eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper, tomatoes, broth and any seasoning. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer covered until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Uncover and simmer for another 5 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Check its progress; overcooking will lead to an unappetizing mush. You can tell when it’s done when the green vegetables aren’t so vibrant anymore. Lastly, stir in the basil (optional).
I love eating ratatouille with pan-seared chicken and thyme-infused quinoa. It would also serve as an interesting alternative to green beans for your Thanksgiving feast!
I’d like to add that not only am I thankful for being in good health, but I also appreciate being around people who believe in good health. For the rest of November, I plan to share recipes that tie in to other things I’m thankful for. Next week: I’m thankful for a life full of flavor. Happy eating!