Paris is Calling–Now I Want a Cartoon Rat to Cook For Me

   

I’ve been having a blast looking up photos of Paris lately. They’re everywhere and easy to find, which reinforces my belief that Paris ranks among the top ten most beautiful cities in the world. I’m working on the draft of a new novel, and my main character dreams of going to the City of Lights. Her dream is quickly becoming MY dream–I once enjoyed a wonderful stay in Paris but it was a very, very long time ago. The more photos I look at, the more I want to throw a few items in a carry-on, grab my passport and my credit card, and run away to the city of bridges, bakeries, art galleries and one very big metal tower that’s on postcards, posters, and even my daughter’s shower curtain. 🙂

Well, right now it isn’t possible for me to return to the breathtaking city of Paris. If you’re like me and can’t get away in person right now, consider curling up with a cup of chocolat chaud, a few macarons and a good book or film. Here’s my suggestion for a fun, family-friendly read about Paris:

My Secret Guide to Paris by Lisa Shroeder

This middle-grade novel takes the reader to several magical places in Paris along with the main character, who receives a special letter guiding her to her late-grandmother’s favorite spots in the city. The book is heartwarming and fun while serving as a great introduction to some lovely (and real) places to visit.

And here is my pick for a fun movie featuring the city:

Ratatouille

Yes, it’s a cartoon, but the love of good food and obvious admiration for this beautiful city are apparent in each scene of this 2007 film! And frankly, I’m not such a fan of most movies about Paris made for grown-ups. Most I’ve seen are obnoxious love stories that don’t really make me care about the characters. I’ll stick with cartoon rats, merci beaucoup. 

Finally, I’m sharing a recipe that I was first inspired to try by the aforementioned Ratatouille, that fun Disney/Pixar film about rats in the kitchen. Real rodents I don’t want inside my house, but if you’re a cartoon rat named Remy you can cook for me any time. This is my own version of the French vegetable dish called ratatouille. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much even my veggie-hating daughter likes it! We usually serve it with some crusty French bread on the side and maybe a little good cheese. (I personally prefer fresh mozzarella. It’s obviously not French but is quite nice with this dish.) Ratatouille has lately become one of our family’s favorite meals. I hope you enjoy it.

Ratatouille

Ingredients:

½ onion, finely chopped                                                 1 small eggplant

2-3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced                                   1 zucchini

1 cup tomato puree                                                          1 yellow squash

¼ to ½ tsp. oregano                                                       1 long red bell pepper

¼ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes                                 1/2 to 1 lbs. fresh mushrooms, your choice of type

2-3 tbsp. olive oil, divided                                              Fresh thyme (fresh really is best)

Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Pour tomato puree into bottom of an oval baking dish, one that’s at least 10 inches long. (I’ve used square dishes. Use whatever you have on hand). Drop sliced garlic cloves and chopped onion into the sauce, and stir in oregano, red pepper flakes, and 1 tbsp. of the olive oil. Then season the sauce generously with salt and pepper.
  • Trim ends off eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash. Trim top of the red pepper and remove the core.
  • Using either a mandonline, an adjustable-blade slicer or a very sharp knife, cut the eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, red pepper and mushrooms into very thin slices, approximately 1/16-inch thick.
  • Arrange the slices of prepared vegetables on top of the tomato sauce in the baking dish. Start from the outer edge to the inside of the dish, overlapping so only a tiny part of each flat surface is visible. Alternate the vegetables. (Disclaimer: from the photo, you can see that my veggies were sliced rather thickly and that they aren’t as prettily arranged as I might like. They still taste delicious. Trust me).
  • Drizzle remaining olive oil over vegetables and season them with salt and pepper. Sprinkle fresh thyme over the dish.
  • Cover dish with a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside.
  • Bake for 45 to 55 minutes, until vegetables have released their liquid and are clearly cooked, but with some structure left so they aren’t totally limp. They shouldn’t be brown at the edges, but you should see that the tomato sauce is bubbling up around them.
  • Sit back and enjoy with some of your favorite bread, or eat over your choice of grain, while watching the movie Ratatouille. ?

*Click here for a printable version of this recipe: Ratatouille Recipe

 

 

 

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