I just got back from a long sojourn backpacking around East Asia trip (expect posts!) to becoming a homeless vagabond in Canada and Los Angeles. And now I’m back to a resemblance of a steady lifestyle in San Francisco, my home away from home. Sadly I couldn’t make it to the famed Bacon Challenge that Janine and Taylor organized because of timing issues. Next time, I will finally try some of that Red Barn Bacon!
So with an empty refrigerator, groceries were the first order of business. I walked down produce store down the street and marvelled at the vast array of fresh cheap vegetables that is offered to me in this early February. This is a clear contrast of when I lived in the dreary wintertime of Krakow, Poland where I got my choice of sauerkraut, pickled beets, or moulding cauliflowers or $6 dollar ginger roots at the supermarket.
So I thought, let’s make some ratatouille! I loved this stuff. Right after that thought crossed my mind, I thought “who the hell makes Ratatouille in the winter time?? Right, Californians do.” God bless the golden coast.
Just in case you don’t know what this stuff is. Ratatouille is a traditional vegetable stew originating from Nice, France according to wikipedia. If you’re not well versed in food, or like me who grew up on a diet of Chinese food and “American” food, your first exposure to this dish is probably from one of my favourite Pixar films of the same namesake – Ratatouille.
However, the dish they make at the end of the movie isn’t really Ratatouille in the traditional sense. It’s Thomas Keller’s version of it since he consulted for the movie aka Byaldi Confit. I made this before when the movie first came out and I had no idea who Tom was and what he was about. After the dish was done was that I knew is that it looks fantastic, tastes ok, and took forever to make. Low deliciousness to effort ratio if you ask me. If you think you never use your mandolin enough, go ahead dust it off and give it workout with Tom’s version. It’ll certainly impress your friends at a dinner party.
But for me cooking solo… nobody’s got time for that. I shelved ratatouille for a while thinking it’s way too time and labour intensive to ever attempt again thanks to Tom. I decided to try it again for some reason last year and while looking up a recipe I thought “wow, this doesn’t look too bad at all!” The traditional version is basically rough cut eggplants, bell peppers, zucchinis, tomatoes, onions and garlic. Add in some thyme and basil, and you got yourself an excellent wonderful tasting vegetable stew. I don’t even like vegetables all that much and I think it’s great. You’re in and out in about an hour. I usually make five servings of this to last for the week.
Try out Emeril Lagasee’s recipe off the Food Network. It’s healthy, low calories and packed full of flavour. It’s relatively low effort and I would rate it as very easy. It’s hard to screw up. What I like about it is that it’s incredibly versatile to spice up an otherwise boring paleo-style meat and veggie meal. It’s not trying to be a ‘paleo’ pizza, mashed potatoes, pudding etc which I find most of the time incredibly unsatisfying. It’s just it’s own thing which have stood the test of time. You’ll be amazed at how sometime simple could taste so good. The French were definitely onto something!
Who says veggies have to be boring?
Bonus: it’s vegetarian, vegan and pretty much doesn’t offend anybody.