Ratatouille a la Remy and Baked Eggs

Task me to cook dinner and I will make you my favorite chef’s prime creation, Ratatouille (and baked eggs for extra protein)! That chef is of course none other than Remy, a fictional rat from my favorite Pixar movie, Ratatouille.

In the movie, Remy is asked to cook for a famous food critic and out of all the fancy French dishes he is capable of making, he chooses to make Ratatouille…but in his own style! I don’t know too much about French cooking, but I do believe that Ratatouille is traditionally made in a pot, like a vegetable stew. In the movie, Remy slices the vegetables thinly and roasts it in the oven with some herbs and tops it with a sauce. The first time I wanted to recreate the dish, I found this New York times recipe that was supposedly conceptualized by the man/lady who made recipes for the movie. I tried making it during college and it wasn’t too difficult, though it was rather time consuming. This time around I wanted to try a simpler version so I used Smitten Kitchen’s version, which was much easier but still incredibly delicious!

The main ingredients are very simple and easy to find. Some vegetables and a sprig of thyme is all you need! I substituted tomato paste mixed with water and a little tomato sauce for tomato puree because I already had them in my pantry. They worked just fine!

The key to this recipe is to acquire and utilize a mandoline. Chopping these vegetables thinly is not very fun if you don’t have a sharp knife and above average knife skills. Don’t get too caught up on arranging the vegetables perfectly (I know I did the first time). Just make sure to alternate between each vegetable. Make sure you use salt and pepper generously!

I served the Ratatouille on a bed of whole wheat couscous that I purchased from Trader Joe’s. It’s very easy to cook and pairs well with the Ratatouille. Do listen to Smitten Kitchen and top it with goat cheese. It works really well with it!

I was brainstorming protein dishes that I thought would complement the Ratatouille well without taking the spotlight away from it and figured I should stay away from meat and go for eggs! To jazz my eggs up a little, I decided to bake them. All I used were:

– grated parmesan cheese
– sliced up ham/prosciutto/bacon/pancetta
– fresh parsley (sliced very small)
– fresh thyme (sliced very small)
– eggs, of course
– salt & pepper
– cute little ramekins to bake them in!

It was very easy to make. Simply crack the eggs and place them in the ramekin. Top it with the cheese, fresh herbs, sliced up meat and sprinkle some salt and pepper. I held off a bit on the salt because I knew that the cheese and meat would add saltiness to it. Bake in the oven at 350 degrees (same temperature as the Ratatouille) for about 10-12 minutes for a runny egg (which I love!). The deeper the ramekin, the longer it takes to cook and since mine were pretty shallow, they were done in 10 minutes.

Voila! Delicious and sophisticated baked eggs that can be served during any meal. Doesn’t that soft, bright yellow yoke just make you hungry?

This dinner was good for 3 people with a very small amount of Ratatouille leftover, which I then scrambled with some eggs the next morning for breakfast and topped with goat cheese!
I ate it with a crispy whole wheat toast. It was a lovely, hearty breakfast. Two great and pretty healthy meals from one dish. Success! Thanks Remy and Smitten Kitchen!


Pizza Wednesday

Although I start work pretty late on Wednesdays (as in 2 pm late), I woke up at 6:49 am this morning, one minute before my alarm went off (which always happens to me). I had to wake up extra early because I was attending a parent-teacher conference, though I’m neither the parent nor the teacher. I’m just the overly concerned 3rd grade English tutor (more like the Math tutor who has never tutored English before and is really there to ask the teacher how to help 3rd graders with English. Luckily I got there before the parent did. Sigh. I’m a fraud). The meeting took literally 8 minutes, so I had an entire morning ahead of me. After a quick Starbucks run, I decided to go to Sprouts to browse through produce sales and get some inspiration on what to make. Note to self: Starbucks and Sprouts are both EMPTY at 8 am! Is this because people are already at work? Or have better things to do at 8 am in the morning than to grocery shop? Do people love grocery shopping as much as I do?

As I walked around Sprouts, I remembered that I had just purchased some pizza dough from Trader Joe’s the night before and decided that I wanted to make pizza for lunch and eat the leftovers for dinner. But since it was only 8 am and I hadn’t eaten breakfast yet, I decided to make a PIZZA DAY out of my Wednesday and to make myself a breakfast pizza! I left Sprouts with mushrooms, a red onion, tomatoes and mozzarella (which I didn’t know had two z’s until I typed it right now).

When I got home, I tore off a quarter of the dough I purchased from Trader Joe’s and let it rest on a lightly floured surface. I bought the garlic and herb pizza dough which is only $1.29, though it really isn’t the best dough ever.

I wasn’t sure about what I wanted on my breakfast pizza, other than a lovely runny egg like this right here (except this is just plain raw, which is a big no-no!). I read a tip that you’re supposed to put it in a ramekin before you gently slide it onto the pizza. Imagine if you cracked a rotten egg straight onto a pizza! I ended up adding fresh tomatoes, spinach and mushrooms along with marinara sauce and some mozzarella. I decided to be go against some fatty bacon, though I’m sure they’d add a lovely crunch!

10 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees F (according to the pizza packet) and voila!
Does this pizza look yummy to you? Well…here comes confession time. This pizza definitely looks better than it tasted, haha. Quite a few things went wrong while making this pizza:
1. I don’t think my oven was hot enough. We own a normal convection oven and a microwave that doubles as a convection oven. When I’m baking smaller batches of food, I bake it in our microwave oven. Well, let’s just say that the temperature is weird in there and is not very accurate, which led to multiple baking issues.
2. I added the egg too late. I added it a few minutes before the baking time was over and when everything else was done cooking, the egg white was still pretty clear. My weird microwave oven shuts off immediately after the timed cooking ends so the temperature drops quickly. So I took out the pizza and *gasp* I converted the oven back to a microwave and microwaved it to cook the egg. We all know what happens when you microwave pizza — the crust hardens, the cheese blows up sometimes (I saw mini explosions in there) and yes…disaster. Well this definitely did wonders for my crust, which I discovered was still slightly undercooked and mildly chewy. Bleh. Also, it’s probably a good idea to add spinach later or to add it right above the cheese so the fat keeps it moist and prevents wilting and/or burning.

On the upside, the flavors were great! I think the greatest problem during my whole pizza morning is not having enough patience — patience in waiting for the egg and crust to cook, in waiting for the oven to reheat instead of sticking it into the microwave for a quick fix. Yep yep. Patience is key when making good food! Well, lesson learned. I’m making my lunch/dinner pizza pretty soon so hopefully that will look AND taste good! :)