In a weird way, I think this dish is representative of me. It is a dish that tries to please everyone. It looks complicated, but is really straight forward. And you are committed to it, even though it is a bit of a pain in the ass to make. I saw this recipe in a magazine and knew right away I needed to make it. I haven’t mastered it yet, because I think the proportions are off a little with both the veggies and/or the size of the pan, but nevertheless, it is still a good dish. The first time I made it, I followed the recipe and used the anchovies. The dish got an F. The kids were coughing and dry heaving, and then my husband, because he still is a child, did the same. So, obviously the anchovies didn’t dissolve, and ruined the dish (for us). My suggestion to pick around the anchovies got tossed about as fast as the dish did. How was I ever going to bring back my dish that I was in love with for the strangest reasons? Thankfully, the opportunity came up when my cooking soul mate called, and we decided to make dinner reservations. As the night out drew closer, we made the convenient excuse to just get together and cook a meal ourselves. We met to go food shopping for a menu that was basically nonexistent, with the exception of the spirals I was making. But at 5:30pm, in the cheese aisle, our menu took shape. I think that if we didn’t have a clock or a liver, we could have cooked all night. Ok, so maybe just not a clock…kidding. So after the cooking marathon, the hour on the clock told us we were tired and the empty bottles of wine signaled the immediacy of going to bed. However, we had successfully made stuffed jalapeños with Brie, caramelized onion and mushroom ravioli, and of course, I got to make my spirals again. This time, I substituted fresh basil for the anchovies. I still didn’t fill the pan with spirals, but what I could fill was my belly and my fridge full of left overs!
ratatouille spirals (adapted from Bon Appetit)
3 lbs beefsteak tomatoes, scored with an “X” on the bottoms
3 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
Kosher salt and ground black pepper
2 cups cubed country bread
2 1/2 lbs medium zucchini, cut lengthwise into 1/8 inch thick strips
2 1/2 lbs small japanese or italian eggplant, cut lengthwise into 1/8 inch thick strips
3 roasted bell peppers, cut into 1/2 inch strips
20 – 24 fresh basil leaves
1 lb fresh mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2 x 2 inch sticks
freshly grated parmesan cheese
get started on the spirals:
In a medium pot of boiling water, blanch the tomatoes for 30 seconds. Drain them and then slip off the skins and halve the tomatoes crosswise. Coarsely chop the tomatoes, keeping the juices and seeds.
Preheat the oven to 375. In a large skillet, heat 2 TB of the oil. Add the onion, garlic and crushed red pepper and cook over moderate heat for 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and juices and season lightly with salt and pepper. Cook while stirring frequently, until the sauce has thickened, about 25 minutes.
Meanwhile, on a baking sheet, toss the bread cubes with the remaining 1 TB of olive oil. Toast for about 15 minutes, stirring once, until golden.
In a colander, toss the zucchini and eggplant with 2 TB of kosher salt (can be done in separate colanders), and let drain for 15 minutes. Shake out the excess liquid and pat the slices dry.
Spoon the tomato sauce into a shallow 2 1/2 qt. baking dish and scatter the bread cubes on top.
On a clean work surface, top each zucchini slice with a slice of eggplant. Blot dry if necessary. Place a strip of roasted red pepper and then top with a basil leaf. Place a stick of mozzarella at one end. Sprinkle each stack with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper and roll up. Stand the rolls in the baking dish and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.
Cover with parchment paper or foil. Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender and the ratatouille is bubbling. Remove the parchment paper halfway through baking. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving.
note: this dish serves 8 people