One might suggest I’m not the smartest banana in the bunch, although I’d probably debate it with you since arguing runs deep in my DNA.
Suffice to say, I have a pretty good sense of self-worth. Some might even call it cocky, without the phallic appendage; my balls have been known to be bigger than most.
Of course you’d have to be willing to overlook a few flaws, like the fact I sometimes forget to turn off the faucet after washing my hands (at least I’m practicing good hygiene) or my propensity to stash food in places it does not belong, such as the kitchen junk drawer. I’ve found an entire bag of pretzels among the rubber bands, batteries and twist ties, although I never use the latter so I have no idea why I’m stockpiling them. It’s not like twist ties will save me or feed me come the Apocalypse. Unless of course I suddenly become super resourceful and braid them into a handy-dandy ladder able to support, well…nothing.
In any event, I might not be rocket scientist smart, but there is one thing I know with the utmost certainty.
Everything is better with ooey-gooey melted cheese on top.
It’s certainly true of ratatouille.
I love this classic French version of a vegetable stew, which is cooked low and slow allowing all the flavors to more than mingle. I make it multiple times every summer when the produce is at its peak and lately I’ve been taking the finished product and sassing it up a notch by adding provolone, mozzarella, Asiago or some combination thereof. A quick bake in the oven all but guarantees your veggies consummate in a vat of saucy, herby, cheesy mouthwatering magic.
The end result is nothing short of spectacular, a party in your mouth, a tango on your tongue, which makes me damn near close to rocket scientist smart. Now if only I can figure out what to do with all those twist ties.
- 2 1/2 cups Squash and Zucchini, roasted (roasting optional)
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- 1/3 cup Olive Oil, plus more to taste
- 1/3 cup Onion, diced
- 1 medium Eggplant, diced
- 4 cloves Garlic, diced
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 2 cups Bell Pepper, diced
- 2 large Tomatoes, diced
- 2 tsp. dried Thyme
- 3 Tbsp. fresh Basil, cut into ribbons
- 1 1/2 cups of Provolone, Mozzarella or Asiago cheese, shredded
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lay squash on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. Drizzle squash with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Let cook for 20 minutes, flipping once halfway through. **This step is optional, but it does a little extra sass to your dish.
- While squash are roasting, add 1/3 cup of olive oil to a large pot over medium high heat. Once the oil is warm, add your onions, a crank of salt and pepper and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce heat to medium and add in eggplant, garlic, bay leaf, another crank of salt and pepper and let cook another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Reduce heat to low and add in bell peppers, roasted squash, tomatoes, thyme and basil, yet another crank of salt and pepper and cook for another 30 minutes minimum to a couple of hours, stirring occasionally. Taste it and add additional seasonings if desired.I usually let my ratatouille cook all day long. The longer you cook it, the thicker and more flavorful it will become.
- Once ratatouille has reached desired taste and thickness, remove from heat and pour into a 2.5 quart casserole dish. Top with shredded cheese and bake for 35 to 45 minutes at 350 degrees, until cheese is thoroughly melted and starting to brown.
- This pairs perfectly with a salad and a crusty baguette.
- Cook time varies based upon personal preference.
Do you stockpile twist ties too? If so, what do use them for? What’s your favorite dish to pair with melted cheese?