Rat(atouille)


Pixar movies are some of my favorite movies. I’ve loved almost all of them – the Cars movies didn’t do it for me, but all of the others are among my all-time favorites movies. They’re fun for kids and interesting for adults – there’s just something so sweet about them. Since I love food (who doesn’t?), it’s no wonder that I loved the movie Ratatouille. I mean, how can you not like a movie about a rat that aspires to become a cook? So gosh-darned cute! (Btw, I think that working at Pixar has to be awesome. I saw a documentary once, where offices look like a cross between a playroom, comic store, jungle gym, all kinds of comfortable sitting, and bikes in the hallway. Plus a fun and creative workplace. I want a job like that).

When Ego, the critic comes to the restaurant to critique the restaurant, Remy (the rat) decides to cook ratatouille. (On a side note, the part with the rats helping out with the cooking always makes me grin, especially where they are steam cleaned). Remy also cooks ratatouille again for Ego once they open up their own restaurant.

Ratatouille is one of those dishes that has never thrilled me. It’a late summer dish, combining eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, bell peppers, onion and garlic – at least that’s the traditional version from the Provence, although people seem to customize it to taste. But somehow I’d rather not eat a vegetable stew in late summer. I’d rather eat something like that in the fall or winter, when it’s cold and blustery – which defeats the purpose of making it with fresh, ripe vegetables. Of course, there’s also the version where the ingredients is layered and served as a casserole. But I’m not a casserole fan either, so it seems like ratatouille will be one of those things that I won’t make.

ratatouille tart

Smitten Kitchen's Ratatouille Tart

Or not? How about a ratatouille tart? Puffed pastry with a thin layer of tomato sauce, thinly sliced vegetables arranged prettily, topped with feta and fresh herbs. It’s almost like a ratatouille pizza/egg-free quiche. Ok, that’s an exaggeration, but I bet a ratatouille pizza would be yummy too. And I’m sure it’s also delicious cold. I might not be best friends with traditional ratatouille, but I can easily imagine enjoying Ratatouille ‘derivatives.’

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Pea risotto

      A basic risotto recipe with fresh peas from the market – I’ll be making this again, but I’ll be adding some lemon juice and lemon zest to the finished project to bring out the freshness of the peas and lighten the heaviness of risotto.

Mother’s Day

(Since Mother’s Day is over, it’s safe to post this)

As mother’s day was approaching, I was struggling to figure out what to get my Mom. My first choice, an awesome book on bread and bread baking by Linda Collister, is completely out of print. Bummer. I didn’t really have enough time to knit something for here, since I had a few other WIP on the needles. Last year I made scones with strawberries two ways (as jam and as a salad) for her, and it was a huge hit. So this time I decided to make something edible again, but of the savory sort. I first thought of making fresh pasta, but since I don’t have pasta maker, I’d have to roll out the pasta by hand – not a good idea for a first time pasta maker. Then I came across this amazing smitten kitchen recipe on how to make gnocchi, and decided that I could do that. Between roasting the potatoes for an hour, grating them and then getting the dough to the right consistency it took some time. Btw, grating the potatoes idea is genius – it really results in a lovely light dough. The actual shaping, cutting, and fork-roll action was a snap. Oh, and instead of rolling the gnocchi over the fork, I just rolled the fork over the gnocchi. It was a bit faster, and I liked the resulting shape better.

gnocchi and fork

gnocchi shaping

I made a deconstructed pesto and tomato sauce/salad – basically I tossed all the classic pesto ingredients and a few cherry tomatoes together with the gnocchi, with a teeny bit of oregano, and voila! An awesome mother’s day meal. I like gnocchi, but I didn’t realize what a huge difference it would make to taste fresh, home-made gnocchi. And the sauce/salad was so fresh, and the individual flavors really did shine. It really is true, good ingredients make for good finished products.

finished gnocchi dish

gnocchi, yum!

The remaining gnocchi went to live in a little baggie in the freezer, to be thawed, cooked and enjoyed on another day. All in all, and unqualified success.