Yes to Yummy

Mon Grand Voyage (and a Spin on Ratatouille!)

June 28, 2013 Leave your thoughts Print this page

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One thing a lot of people don’t know about me (in the blogosphere, at least) is that I LOVE France. When I first went when I was 11, well, je suis tombée en amoureuse. I usually dislike big cities, but there was something about Paris’s narrow streets and petits marchés that made me think otherwise. I’ve been back twice since then, and every time I leave, I find myself wanting to return.

I’ve taken French in school since the second half of third grade, but I’m nowhere near fluent. I can write pretty well, but when confronted with an actual human being, I clam up! I always worry I’m going to say the wrong thing and wind up completely insulting whoever I’m speaking to.

I’m tired of being afraid and want to be able to have a real conversation in French. So…I’m going to France for a month to get brave and learn! This time, I’ll be going to a suburb of Nice called St. Laurent-du-Var, where I’ll be graciously hosted by my homestay mother. I’m really excited and extremely nervous, too!

One thing I’m looking forward to is the food. I’ve had plenty of Parisian fare—duck confit, chocolate mousse, and the like—but I want to taste what else is out there. Since it’ll be July, fresh fruits and vegetables should be plentiful; hopefully I’ll get a chance to visit one or seven marchés en plein air and eat so many tomates cerises I’ll become one. I also foresee mountains of olives in my future, as well as whatever else I may be able to sample.

For the duration of my trip, I WILL NOT be eating squeaky clean by any stretch of the imagination. I may look into doing a Whole30 challenge or something akin to it when I return, but while in France, I’m going to enjoy myself. No, I’m not going to eat a massive croissant at every meal, but I’ll certainly try to have a little taste of a variety of different breads, pastries, and dairy products.

Fortunately, I won’t have to leave the extension of my heart my laptop at home, so I’ll be able to take lots of pictures and update you guys on what I’m up to. Hey, maybe I’ll post a recipe or two, too!

In anticipation for my upcoming voyage, I made ratatouille, probably the tastiest mixed vegetable dish of all time. 

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I’ve been in French classes for over SIX years now, and the only movie I’ve ever watched is Ratatouille. At this point, I’ve probably seen it at least four or five times in French and six or seven times in English. And every time after I watch the movie, I want that idealized plate of vegetable goodness Disney so perfectly displays.

To make this dish a little more satiating, I melted a bit of raw Dorset cheese on the top. Don’t call the paleo police! If you’re lactose intolerant and/or avoiding dairy, feel free to take out the cheese…but if you can eat it, I highly recommend adding it for extra tang and creaminess.

This recipe is a breeze to make. All you need are some veggies, olive oil, a couple of dried herbs, and a big baking dish. If you’re sick of eating meat for dinner, this is a great way to work something vegetarian into the mix!

My recipe is adapted from this one.

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At least a half an hour before you want to bake your ratatouille, slice two small eggplants into 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch rounds. Use whatever you can find, whether it be graffiti, Japanese, or globe.

Liberally salt the eggplant rounds and let them sit on a baking sheet or cutting board until assembly time, at least 30 minutes. This is to help some of the water get out and make your eggplant tender, not mushy and gushy.

Next, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut two medium-sized zucchini into 1/4-inch rounds and two large bell peppers into 1/4-inch rings. Maybe it’s just me, but I always eat the ends of the peppers after I slice them.

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Set the sliced veggies aside. On the bottom of a 13 x 9 baking dish, mix together 14 ounces of tomato paste or plain tomato sauce (about 1 medium can), 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 chopped small onion, 2 thinly sliced cloves of garlic, and a generous pinch of salt. With the back of a spoon or a small spatula, spread it out so the bottom is completely coated.

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To assemble, put one piece of eggplant with two or three slices of zucchini and a slice of pepper. Keep going until you run out of space or vegetables…whichever comes first.

Sprinkle the top with 2 teaspoons each of dried thyme, basil, and oregano, a good crack of black pepper, and an additional tablespoon of olive oil.

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Cut out a piece of parchment paper to fit snugly atop the dish. Stick the ratatouille in the oven until the veggies are tender and beginning to curl around the edges, about 45 to 50 minutes.

If you don’t want cheese, you can stop here. If you’re opting for the dairy, top the ratatouille with your desired amount of cheese (for me, about 10 tiny squares cut from two slices worth) and broil until completely melted, about 5 minutes.

Serve immediately with a large fork and a hungry belly.

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Next time, I’ll make more…since we had no leftovers. Oh well, at least it was tasty!

What’s your favorite French dish? Leave me a comment on Facebook and let me know!


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