Honestly I couldn’t stomach Shrek the Third at all. It was awful. Ratatouille, on the other hand, is great. How do I know? I made it last week.
All this time I thought the rat’s name was Ratatouille and then I find out his name is Remy. Ratatouille is apparently just a dish with a really silly name. When I heard that I figured it would be something silly where you whisk eggs into a foam and fold them into puff pastry or something. (The French don’t care what they eat, so long as it’s difficult to prepare.) It’s actually kind of like a vegetable stew.
I looked at the Food Network and Cooking Light and found three recipes that looked promising, so Karen and I took something from each recipe and made it work. Okay, Karen tinkered with the recipes, but would you trust me with something like that? Me neither. Notice a recurring theme that when Karen is around to keep me in line I don’t ruin dinner.
Step number one was to cut the eggplant in half lengthwise and peel it. Then you liberally salt both halves all over and let it sit for about an hour. This apparently draws out all the bitter juices and it works; there were a lot of drippings in that pan. While it was sitting I put it to drain on a cooling rack over a cookie sheet. Then you fire up the grill.
The first thing to set on the grill was a head of garlic cut in half, per Emeril’s directions. We thought roasted garlic sounded killer so I did it. How’d it look afterwards?
We couldn’t salvage the top half. Apparently there was too little garlic and too much of that papery covering; it caught fire. But it did add a nice smoky taste to the half we did use. It seemed kind of odd to be grilling vegetables and leaving the meat on the stove to cook, but when in Paris, right? I charred the outside of some of the vegetables (I’m not enjoying my experience with gas grilling) but that’s okay, I peeled them when they were done.
I always read recipes and say to myself “Emeril is nuts, I’m not doing that.” This was one of those times, and don’t you make the same mistake I did. Emeril said to slice the red onion and put those slices on the grill. I thought “I’ve grilled onions before and the middle rings of onion fell into the flame. I’ll just quarter the onion.” Guess what, it came apart anyway and I still had to grill the onion on foil. It would’ve cooked much better had I sliced it. So slice the onions.
The yellow squash that we had was a couple weeks old and unusable so we didn’t. I’m sure that’s my fault too.
People say (don’t ask who, just people) that ratatouille can be served cold, hot, or at room temperature. People also say you can make it a day in advance so that the flavors can come together. I think we liked it warm, and it was definitely better on leftover night, so go ahead and make it the day before your big BBQ pool party (invite us over). This recipe makes a ton of food, and over rice it makes a great vegetarian leftover night all by itself. Not exactly man food but I did make it on the grill!
Grilled Vegetable Ratatouille
1 large head garlic, top sliced off to expose tips of garlic cloves
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 3/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 large, ripe tomatoes (about 3/4 pound), halved
1 small eggplant, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
1 large zucchini, sliced lengthwise into 1/2 inch strips
1 large yellow squash, sliced lengthwise into 1/2 inch strips
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rings
1 medium red bell pepper, stem, seeds, and ribs removed, cut in half lengthwise
1 medium green bell pepper, stem, seeds, and ribs removed, cut in half lengthwise
minced fresh basil leaves, to taste
finely chopped fresh oregano leaves, to taste
finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves, to taste
juice from half a lemon
Freshly grated Parmesan, garnish
Sprinkle cut sides of eggplant with 3/4 teaspoon salt. Let drain 1 hour. Rinse well; pat dry with paper towels.
Before preparing the vegetables, roast the garlic. Rub 1 teaspoon of the oil and a pinch of the salt and pepper onto the cut side of the garlic. Wrap in foil and place on the grill. Roast until soft and starting to caramelize, about 25 minutes. Remove from the grill and let sit until cool enough to handle.
Rub 2 teaspoons of the oil and pinch of the salt and pinch of the pepper on the tomatoes. Place on the grill away from the direct heat (or on the upper rack) and grill until tender and start to char, about 6 minutes, depending upon the heat. (The longer the tomatoes stay on the grill, the smokier flavor they will obtain.) Remove from the heat and when cool, remove the skin and roughly chop.
In a large bowl, combine the eggplant, zucchini, squash, onions, and bell peppers and toss with 2 tablespoons of the oil, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper. Grill, turning, until marked by the grill and tender, 3 to 5 minutes per side. Remove with tongs and let cool. Dice into 1/2-inch pieces.
In the bottom of a large bowl, mash the roasted garlic and 1 teaspoon of olive oil to make a paste. Drizzle in the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper, and the lemon juice and whisk to combine. Add the chopped vegetables, tomatoes, and the herbs and toss to coat. Serve at room temperature, garnished with Parmesan. (The ratatouille can be made ahead and refrigerated overnight to allow the flavors to further develop.)