Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ratatouille... yes, the one from the movie, Remy's dish!!

If you like me love all things related to the cooking world, then you must have seen the movie Ratatouille!!
I went to watch it soon as it appeared in the movie theater around here and couldn't have liked it more! Matheus and I liked it so much that we watched it a second time with my Mom, Sister, and Brother in Law when they were here visiting us.
The movie is fun and gives a great message about how we should follow our dream - if you truly believe in yourself you can get where you want - at the same time making us think of how we sometimes might judge people on the appearance instead of looking deep into how they are truly able to perform (Although I am not sure I would still eat the food after seeing the massive amount of rodents present in that kitchen, being them good cook or not!!)
Anyway, this post is here not to make a movie review, but to share the recipe that actually inspired the movie writers who gave life to Remy (which to me still is the creator of the dish! hehehe!)
Ratatouille is, as described in the movie, considered as "pheasant" food, meaning it is a very simple dish that uses up the extra vegetables that the farmers used to have during their harvest. It is basically a stew, a mix of yummy vegetables and herbs that creates its own sauce and deliciousness as it cooks.
No need to embellish such good food, right? Yes, but it is clear that the movie producers found a way to make it look just as good as it taste!
The dish in question is actually not even a "Ratatouille" per say, after being made the way it was, in reality it is a Confit Byaldi, created by the chef Thomas Keller. (The arrangement of sliced vegetables is what maked this particular dish a "Byaldi")
Well, whatever the name, and whoever created this.... it is Delicious!!!
Simply fabulous, full of flavors and definitely better than I can ever describe it here.
We loved the dish and polished of the whole thing among the three of us (ahem... I did have a couple extra helpings of what is considered polite to eat, but lets not get into the details, shall we?!!!!).
It is a little time consuming I have to say, as you need to do a bit of slicing and dicing to get all ingredients ready, plus there is the piperade that might be made first. But don't let the process scare you of making this, because it is truly a great dish! (some planning in advance and you will enjoy your time in the kitchen making this... or at least I did!)
The piperade is very good, and the vinaigrette... oh my, that was delicious all by itself, and I will certainly double this part next time I make it as I found the amount of the vinaigrette to be too little compared to the rest of the dish.
I did shop for my produce at the farmer's market and tried to find all vegetables of the same diameter in order to make the dish look pretty. It was worth it, but not completely necessary, as the flavors are definitely way better than it might look.
Well, after a huge post I leave here the recipe for those who would like to try. And if you are a fan of vegetables and simple but delicious food... then I am sure you will love this just as much as we did!!

Thomas Keller's Ratatouille
Serves 4

For piperade:

1/2 red pepper, seeds and ribs removed
1/2 yellow pepper, seeds and ribs removed
1/2 orange pepper, seeds and ribs removed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
3 tomatoes (about 12 ounces total weight), peeled, seeded and finely diced, juices reserved
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig flat-leaf parsley
1/2 bay leaf
Kosher salt

For vegetables:

1 zucchini (4 to 5 ounces) sliced in 1/16-inch rounds
1 Japanese eggplant, (4 to 5 ounces) sliced into 1/16-inch rounds
1 yellow squash (4 to 5 ounces) sliced into 1/16-inch rounds
4 Roma tomatoes, sliced into 1/16-inch rounds
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/8 teaspoon thyme leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Assorted fresh herbs (thyme flowers, chervil, thyme)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make piperade:

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Place pepper halves on a foil-lined sheet, cut side down. Roast until skin loosens, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let rest until cool enough to handle. Peel and chop finely.

Combine oil, garlic and onion in medium skillet and cook over low heat on stovetop until very soft but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes, their juices, thyme, parsley and bay leaf. Simmer over low heat until very soft and very little liquid remains, about 10 minutes, do not brown; add peppers and simmer to soften them. Season to taste with salt and discard herbs. Reserve 1 tablespoon of mixture and spread remainder in bottom of an 8-inch ovenproof skillet.

To prepare vegetables:

Heat oven to 275 degrees. In center of skillet arrange 8 alternating slices of vegetables, 2 each of zucchini, eggplant, squash and tomatoes, over piperade, overlapping in a circle so that 1/4 inch of each slice is exposed. Continue alternating and overlapping vegetables in close spiral that lets slices mound slightly in center. Repeat until pan is filled; all vegetables may not be needed.

Mix garlic, oil and thyme leaves in bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle over vegetables. Cover skillet with foil and crimp edges to seal well. Bake until vegetables are tender when tested with a paring knife, about 2 hours. Uncover and bake for 30 minutes more. (Lightly cover with foil if it starts to brown.) If there is excess liquid in pan, place over medium heat on stove until reduced. (At this point it may be cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days. If desired, reheat in 350-degree oven until warm.)

To make vinaigrette:

Combine reserved piperade, oil, vinegar, herbs, and salt and pepper to taste in a bowl.

To serve:

Heat broiler and place byaldi underneath until lightly browned. Cut in quarters and very carefully lift one quarter onto plate with offset spatula. Turn spatula 90 degrees, guiding byaldi into fan shape. Drizzle vinaigrette around plate.

And here goes a few pictures I took along the process...

Piperade in the bottom of the dish

Veggies arranged on dish, right before going into the oven...

And after it came out.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

And so you blink and there it is, 8 years have gone by... thankfully they were filled with lots of happy days!
Happy 8th Anniversary Fran!
Love you!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Hi all!!

I am still here, yes! And I missed writing to this blog a whole lot, believe me.
Not that I haven't cooked or taken pictures lately, the thing was that Matheus started Kindergarten and things changed a bit.
Actually, for me the change was huge... he now stays in school for a long period and we lost our lunch time together (lunch still is the main meal at our house). And since he is very adventurous and loves my cooking I haven't had much motivation or inspiration to cook just for myself. It is pretty lonely while he is at school, and I do miss him a lot during the day.
The good thing is that he is pretty happy with school and comes home relatively early (2:30pm), so we still get a good part of the afternoon together to play, talk, snack and think about next day's lunch! :o)
Maybe it is supposed to be like this, as it comes a time when we need to "let them go" and face the world, but it is not easy, and I was certainly not prepared to be this soon...
All this, plus, I am looking for a job to get myself busy when Matheus is at school and it has not been easy to find something I truly like to do during the hours I am available. I got an opportunity which ended up not being a great one, and that sort of made me feel a little more frustrated.
But hey, life is here and now, and I will keep trying, in search of a job suited for myself. Eventually it will happen; meanwhile I need to cheer up and one of my favorite things to do is cooking, so here I go, into the kitchen again!!

I have many recipes I want to post, and there are some great ones that I have tried lately and really enjoyed. Today I am posting a very simple pasta recipe that I got from last month's Cooking Light magazine. It has one of Matheus and the Husband favorite ingredients, shrimp, and it was super fresh on a hot day!
The cooking is basically the pasta and the shrimp, which by the way was great, the little marinade with cirtus zest make them stand out and awesome just by themselves (I will definitely be making the shrimp like this again! And I think it would even be a good marinade to try on tofu... which I really like!).
Don't let the long list of ingredients shy you from making this, as most of it are basic staples you all must have around the house.
Fresh and tasty, a very nice dish for the last few hot summer days!
Ana (who promises to not abandon the blog again!!!)

Garden Shrimp Pasta
(Adapted from Cooking Light, August 2007)
Serves 6 ( I made half recipe)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon grated orange rind
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 pounds medium peeled and deveined shrimp
8 ounces uncooked angel hair pasta
5 cups chopped seeded tomato (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil
1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh mint
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons spicy brown mustard
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup (3 ounces) crumbled feta cheese

Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil and next 6 ingredients (through shrimp) in a large bowl; toss well. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp mixture to pan; sauté 6 minutes or until done. Remove from heat; set aside.
Cook pasta according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Place pasta in a large bowl; add tomato, basil, and mint.
Combine red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon olive oil, sugar, and next 5 ingredients (through black pepper) in a small bowl. Pour over pasta mixture, and toss to coat. Place about 1 3/4 cups pasta mixture on each of 6 plates. Top each serving with about 3 ounces shrimp mixture and 2 tablespoons cheese.

Oh and although not very inspired to cook for me, I have been having fun with Matheu's lunchbox! :o)

Tortilla Roll Ups (his favorite so far!)

Broccoli and Cheese Calzone
Mixed Crackers, cheese, fruits and veggies!