A hearty, fresh vegetable stew to nourish the body and warm the soul.
Just about every time I’m with my Aunt Jill, the conversation drifts toward the topic of raising growing boys and how hard it is to keep them well fed. She raised two boys of her own–now two strapping men of 6’3″ and 6’6,” respectively. She is well versed with the fact that growing boys are never ever full for very long.
As a mama of four boys myself, I can attest that a growing boy’s stomach is the size of Texas, and his legs are perpetually hollow to boot!
Aunt Jill is a tremendous cook, but she doesn’t necessarily like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen. She is the quintessential Work Smarter Not Harder kind of cook. Her recipes focus on healthy ingredients and simple preparation, and they are satisfying enough to keep two teenage boys and her food-loving husband full for awhile so that she might have a chance to put her feet up for a minute or two.
We’re totally cut from the same cloth.
One of her recipes that she oft recommends is her version of ratatouille, which she would make in bulk and refrigerate in single servings so that her boys would have something healthy to heat up for an after school snack.
Ratatouille is a fancy French name for a type of vegetable stew, although my aunt would tell you that it’s more like a really chunky tomato sauce. While a more traditional ratatouille calls for eggplant as the primary vegetable, Jill’s recipe revolves around fresh end-of-summer vegetables like squash and tomatoes.
Which is a good thing because eggplant and I are decidedly not friends.
Jill also adds a little turkey bacon to her ratatouille for flavor, but I’m quite sure that if I so much as brought turkey bacon near the threshold of my house, Bacon Slayer and The Sons would be certain to mutiny. My men are steadfast in their devotion to proper pork products.
Comfortably Domestic Confession: I can’t ever hear the name “Ratatouille” without thinking of a scene from the movie of the same name–the one where Linguini is being confronted by the scheming Skinner about his knowledge of rats in the restaurant…
Skinner: You know something about rats, you know you do!
Linguini: You know who know, do, whacka-do. Ratta-tatta – Hey, why do they call it that?
Linguini: Ratatouille. It’s like a stew, right? Why do they call it that? If you’re gonna name a food, you should give it a name that sounds delicious. Ratatouille doesn’t sound delicious. It sounds like “rat” and “patootie.” Rat patootie! Which does not sound delicious.
[holds out his glass for more wine]
Skinner: [growling] Regrettably, we are all… out… of wine.
I swear that scene makes me bust out in giggle-fits every time I think of it!
I assure you that despite the sound of the name, Ratatouille is every bit delicious! It’s a terrific blend of saucy tomatoes, tender carrots, al denté zucchini and other squash swimming around with plenty of bacon and garlic. Topped with a little freshly grated cheese, Ratatouille is an infusion of goodness that will satisfy even the most tenacious of appetites.
Perhaps my favorite part of making Ratatouille is the fact that I can usually eke out three different meals out of a single batch! The first night, I serve Ratatouille as is with plenty of crusty bread on the side.
The second night, I heat a healthy amount of the leftovers in a skillet and poach a few eggs in the center for a different take on huevos rancheros, only with less salsa and more ratatouille…or something.
And then…THEN! On the third day, I puree any remaining Ratatouille with my immersion blender, reheat it with a couple of frozen meatballs that I have stashed in the freezer, boil a little pasta, and poof! Spaghetti and meatballs!
I just love it when I can get some serious mileage out of a single recipe. That’s my Work Smarter Not Harder kind of cooking!