Ratatouille

RATATOUILLE

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My ‘Amstel Light’ went down smoothly and calmed my nerves down. I was on high-gear for about fourteen hours today. That was not bad. It went up to sixteen yesterday and when I arrived home, and I was dead-tired. Work was just non-stop, and my prep work was about a mile high. My mental state has never failed me so far. That’s a good thing. Unfortunately, I think, my age is catching up on me. Nevertheless, despite such a hectic day, the relative peace and quiet of this evening is quite different as compared with the last few days, except maybe for occasional sirens and shouts from my outside window. My neighbourhood has a ghetto-like feel with an exception to a few bickering here and there from crackheads. Otherwise, it’s a safe one. That solitude is totally heaven for me; away from all the noise and heat in a busy kitchen workplace and annoying strangers in streetcars on my ride home.

Kitchen work here is terribly demanding, and blogging and cooking make me somehow at ease and at peace, despite some time constraints on my end now that it’s summer time again. The quiet period I always long for after work, no matter what time or season it is in the day or year, has had some positive effects on me. And, I know you know by now that a 6-pack makes my jittery nerves still after a very, very long day at work. It just doesn’t stop until the day’s finally over, and I have one bottle with me while I start tapping on my keyboard for the next article. There’s just so darn many things to do that slacking in the kitchen is next to impossible.

I have been totally overwhelmed by the positive responses by my fellow bloggers and would like to personally thank you for that. Thank you Iska for paving the way! It has sparked and renewed my interest into food preparation and presentation more so than before. Generally speaking though, I’m quite a timid and a very quiet individual with very few words to say. I guess it’s just that it takes some time for me to speak and open up to people and say how I’d truly feel. I do it much better in writing. Anyway, I truly appreciate all your beautiful comments on all my post from past to present. I have never expected such multitude of responses from my articles. It has also brought me back to my second love of creative writing, and thoughtfully made my very pensive and anxious mind alert and focused; keeping me always thinking about what the next dish to write even if I had not finished the other.

I am writing again from something in the past which has brought some real kitchen work scenario and drama into the Hollywood limelight in a very fun and animated way: RATATOUILLE. It never crossed my mind what it was up until I made it the first time in Culinary School back in 2006. When it first came out, people and friends around me would almost always refer to that movie whenever I explain to them what I do for a living, and they were totally astonished. Back then, ‘The Food Network’ channel was also gaining popularity, everybody was hooked; cook or non-cook. Yes, they did a good job of portraying kitchen worklife. The rats were just spectacular, and yes, they do exist and roam around the kitchen; so beware.

Ratatouille is a popular dish from the French region of Provence that combines the following vegetables: eggplant, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, garlic and herbs; sauted or simmered in olive oil and paired with a piece of bread. This is one of my favourite dishes. I have served it to friends before and they loved it, too. It can be served hot or cold, as an appetizer or a side dish. Any leftovers can be added to a rich broth to make a perfect, hearty vegetable soup, which I think I maybe doing tonight.

Ingredients: Serves 1
An Eggplant
1 Zucchini
2-3 Tomatoes
Half White Onion
Half Green and Red Bell Pepper
1 clove of Garlic
A slice or two of Monay Bread
Lemon Juice
Butter
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Herbs: Rosemary, Thyme, Basil, Rosemary or Herb de Provence

1. Peel and Deseed the Zucchini. Deseed the Eggplant as well and cut both into Batonets. Salt and let the water drain down a strainer until it dries up a bit. Dice afterwards.

2. Coat the bell peppers in Olive Oil and roast them in the oven until the skin starts cracking and peeling. Once the peppers have cooled down, peel and cut them into large dice. Save all the juices from the bell peppers.

3. Start a pot of boiling water. Cut cross the bottom ends of the tomato and drop it in boiling water. Remove from the pot and drop them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. When cool, start peeling and deseeding the tomatoes. Dice.

4. In a sauté pan, heat some oil. Saute the white onion until it caramelizes. Add a little water and salt and wait until it turns a little brown. Add a clove of minced garlic and toss in the Zucchini and Eggplant.

5. Add the bell peppers and continue tossing until everything comes together. Return all the juice from the bell peppers while tossing and sautéing. Season some more with salt and pepper and add the chosen herbs. Drop the tomatoes and continue tossing. Let it simmer for a bit, add a squeeze of lemon and finish it off with a touch of butter. Drizzle with Extra Virgin Oil on the plate before serving.

I first encountered herbs only when I arrived in Canada. I hadn’t the slightest what they were back in the Philippines. All I knew then was Chinese Noodles, Soy Sauce, Patis, Suka and Chicharon, but when I first used fresh and dried herbs in my cooking, my entire world was awakened into another kingdom. It became another chapter in my cooking which I had extensively been using in all my sauces and dishes, and Ratatouille is no exception. I love using herbs especially with citrus and citrus fruits. It just adds zing to the entire dish, and makes you want to gobble up and eat more. The beauty of a meal awakens with the use of fresh herbs. My most abused kind of herb is Thyme. During the holidays, it’s almost always in my meats, sauces, and pastas with other herbs liked Rosemary and Oregano. I use it like salt, and it leaves a whiffing aroma in my entire room everytime, down to the hallways of my apartment building. I just love the smell, and just talking about it makes me feel like rushing time to autumn when Thanksgiving arrives and herbs are again back in the limelight. And, my work schedule is back to normal.

Mice Traps:
• I decided to grill a slice of Monay Bread vs. a Baguette or a French Loaf. The Monay I bought was sweet and ‘tasty’ that I couldn’t resist having one, and I felt it would add an extra layer of flavour when I bite into the salad. French baguettes are already very buttery.
• You can add a dash of white wine with the dish while sautéing. I had foregone that step. It’s summertime here and I really don’t feel like having a bottle of white.
• Cheese can also be ‘gratined’ or broiled with the vegetables and bread in the oven at a very high temperature and served as an appetizer. I decided to use my grill pan to toast my Monay, and serve it on the side much like many salads.
• I did my ‘mise en place’ the night before to make sure that the zucchini and eggplant were very dry. If it weren’t, the whole dish will turn mushy with all the moisture coming out from those vegetables. I also decided to dice the vegetables for faster and easier cooking. Initially, I was taught to cut them in ‘batonets.’
• Think French when cooking this dish: Cheese, Bread, Bechamel Sauce, Potatoes, Tomato Sauce, Butter, Cream and the like.


FTFBadge

Beef & Vegetable Soup (using leftover Ratatouille)
4.0 from 1 reviews
RATATOUILLE
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetizer, Salad
Serves: 1
 
Ratatouille is a popular dish from the French region of Provence that combines the following vegetables: eggplant, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, garlic and herbs; sauted or simmered in olive oil and paired with a piece of bread.
Ingredients
  • An Eggplant
  • 1 Zucchini
  • 2-3 Tomatoes
  • Half White Onion
  • Half Green and Red Bell Pepper
  • 1 clove of Garlic
  • A slice or two of Monay Bread
  • Lemon Juice
  • Butter
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Herbs: Rosemary, Thyme, Basil, Rosemary or Herb de Provence
Instructions
  1. Peel and Deseed the Zucchini. Deseed the Eggplant as well and cut both into Batonets. Salt and let the water drain down a strainer until it dries up a bit. Dice afterwards.
  2. Coat the bell peppers in Olive Oil and roast them in the oven until the skin starts cracking and peeling. Once the peppers have cooled down, peel and cut them into large dice. Save all the juices from the bell peppers.
  3. Start a pot of boiling water. Cut cross the bottom ends of the tomato and drop it in boiling water. Remove from the pot and drop them in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. When cool, start peeling and deseeding the tomatoes. Dice.
  4. In a sauté pan, heat some oil. Saute the white onion until it caramelizes. Add a little water and salt and wait until it turns a little brown. Add a clove of minced garlic and toss in the Zucchini and Eggplant.
  5. Add the bell peppers and continue tossing until everything comes together. Return all the juice from the bell peppers while tossing and sautéing. Season some more with salt and pepper and add the chosen herbs. Drop the tomatoes and continue tossing. Let it simmer for a bit, add a squeeze of lemon and finish it off with a touch of butter. Drizzle with Extra Virgin Oil on the plate before serving.
Notes
• Any leftovers can be added to a rich broth to make a perfect, hearty vegetable soup. • You can add a dash of white wine with the dish while sautéing. • Cheese can also be ‘gratined’ or broiled with the vegetables and bread in the oven at a very high temperature and served as an appetizer. I decided to use my grill pan to toast my Monay, and serve it on the side much like many salads. • I did my ‘mise en place’ the night before to make sure that the zucchini and eggplant were very dry. If it weren’t, the whole dish will turn mushy with all the moisture coming out from those vegetables. I also decided to dice the vegetables for faster and easier cooking. Initially, I was taught to cut them in ‘batonets.’ • Think French when cooking this dish: Cheese, Bread, Bechamel Sauce, Potatoes, Tomato Sauce, Butter, Cream and the like.
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Erwin
When I was growing up, my parents and I used to eat out and try different restaurants after celebrating the Sunday Mass. Moreover, during the course of the summer break, I had the opportunity to see some places which, when looking back, I had never realized how lucky I was as a teen to be able to travel. My family and I went to Europe and some parts of the United States, and what I saw along that path of my life inspired me to become a 'Chef.' The 'whites' they wore for me, during those growing-up and finding 'myself' years, portrayed a sort of fascinating and powerful figure in an extremely sophisticated, higly inviting and invigorating work place; and still maintain an unblemished and clean uniform after a very busy service. That picture of a 'Chef' stuck to my head for so many years.

True enough, with meager resources left to spend for the youngest, that dream never happened. Life went on. I went to university and studied an insignificant course, Business Management, and after graduating, I ended up working as a Credit and Financial Analyst in the banking industry in Manila; slugging it out in the corporate arena in Makati. It was the first taste of being called a 'yuppie' and was almost always looking forward to an after-office eating and drinking extravaganza in the expanding and growing Makati Business District; and, of course, the weekend.

Anyway, forging ahead to my life today, that dream as 'Chef' stayed in the back of my mind all the time that when I left the Philippines for Toronto in 2003; and after finally settling down on my own in 2005, I had started studying Professional Culinary Arts Courses in the City College to get that almost long-forgotten 'dream' going again. It was a Continuing Education Course, and more or less, students who have also shifted careers or who were trying to find work (like myself) as a newly landed found ourselves working with pots, knives and fire which I believe and I felt, everyone in class have never, ever touched during their past, professional lives.

Since then, I have been working in and out of different kitchens; flipping eggs and hamburgers, grilling steaks, shoving bread and chicken in a 500'C oven, and almost anything that can be either deep-fried or toasted just to serve hungry, sometimes pesky, customers. I became a 'grease' cook; a short-order cook with no definite place of employment, and definitely not a 'Chef.'

My articles are based on the after-thoughts of my past and present day experiences in this fast-paced, starkling, and sometimes disheveling kitchen environment. I never imagined that a kitchen 'worklife' turned that way as against the 'Ideal' environment I had thought about for years. No regrets. During this journey, I've discovered food which I've never thought I'd be able to taste. I learned to appreciate wine and travel more; now that I have understood the culture of food to society. That was non-existent when I was growing up.

This journey has not ended. I'm still discovering and still learning. It's a tough industry to be in and for what's next or for where I'll finally end up in remain a sordid mystery.

13 thoughts on “RATATOUILLE

  1. Erwin, thank you! It’s an honor to have you writing for this site… aba ako ay isang hamak na homecook lamang. Ikaw… you’re THE chef you know what you’re doing :-) And you write beautifully!

  2. wow, its a lovely meal…i love your plating, looks really delicious and thanks for the idea about adding bread! i made it few times for hubby and he loves it…of course, i just followed instructions from recipe book, minute meals! :) i will try your recipe, sometime! and oh, thanks for that leftover tip…its big help! visiting from FTF, hope you can visit me back. thanks and have a great week. :)
    cheerful recently posted Last Easter…

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