Well, it's officially t-minus two days until my Veganversary. So, in preparation for the big party, I decided to test out some dishes I hadn't tried before in hopes to find a worthy candidate for my dinner table.
It's important to note that like most children, I absolutely loathed vegetables. At dinnertime, when my mom was pressing me to eat them, I used to put them in my mouth and then sneakily spit them right back out into my napkin. To this day, I have no idea how she never figured that one out (sorry, mom). The biggest offenders were squash and anything that looked like squash. To this day, a part of me still cringes at the thought of that smushy mess that called itself a vegetable. Blugh. However, as a vegan, I have begun to reevaluate my likes and dislikes within the produce section, and it seemed like time to revisit squash.
Another note I'd like to make is that I adore animated films. It helps that several of my closest friends are animators-- this way, I stay in the loop on what's worth seeing and what's not-so-much. One film you didn't need to be in the loop to know was wonderful is 2007's Ratatouille. This film succeeded on multiple levels (who knew people could identify with vermin?), including one very unexpected one-- it made me want to eat squash. That ratatouille that Remi makes looks simply divine. Since my first viewing, I've been dying to try it out.
And so, I was inspired to create ratatouille. Enjoy!
1/2 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
1 1/2 cup tomato puree (I pureed my own, but you can certainly use canned)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 chinese eggplant (the thin ones)
1 zucchini squash
3 or 4 roma tomatoes (the thinner and longer the better)
Several sprigs fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
I got started by slicing my veggies. If you have a mandolin, this is going to be far simpler for you! Basically, the object of this game is to slice your squash, eggplant, and tomatoes as uniformly as possible into very thin slices. Ideally, you want 1/16" thickness, but in reality, do the best you can. Mine wound up to be about 1/4-1/8" thick. Still looked and tasted great. Set your lovely sliced vegetables aside when you're done, because it's time to prep the pan.
Pour the tomato puree into the bottom of the pan. Drop in the sliced garlic cloves, olive oil, and chopped onion, and stir the mixture up. Spread it out with a rubber spatula so it's spread uniformly across the bottom of the pan. Season this yumminess with salt and pepper generously. Or to your own preference. Whichever.
Atop your lovely tomato sauce arrange the prepared vegetables as shown below, concentrically from the outside to the center. Overlap each piece slightly, and alternate vegetables. If you have leftovers, lucky you. Nibble away.
Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the veggies and season again with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the thyme leaves over the dish.
Now, if you were fancy and more obsessive than I, you would add parchment paper at this step. I, however, did not have parchment paper, so I winged it and was pleased with my results. Do what you want, I won't judge.
Here's what I did:
Cover the dish with foil and bake in your oven for about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, or until the veggies are golden brown and scrumptious-looking (see photo below).
Serve atop couscous, rice, bread, or a grain of your choice. Mmmmm....
For my ratatouille, I invited Susan and Rebecca over to help me eat. I served the dish with Israeli couscous (a larger version than your basic variety) and Veganomicon's pine nut cream. The pine nut cream served as a nice juxtaposition to the red sauce, and added an extra kick of garlic.
As a side, I whipped up some roasted potatoes with a lemon-dijon sauce. It's based on a weight watchers recipe. Here's the quick little recipe (as Susan requested):
2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, unpeeled, cut into 1-inch chunks
1 tsp olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup soft tofu
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp Dijon mustard (I recommend going with a lighter mustard, our sauce turned out a little heavy on the dijon)
1/8 tsp table salt, or to taste
1/8 tsp black pepper, or to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Spread potatoes on a nonstick baking pan, sprinkle with oil and toss to coat. Roast potatoes 25 minutes. Add the garlic, toss and roast for 5 minutes more. This... smells... awesome!
Meanwhile, place tofu, lemon juice and mustard in your food processor or blender, and blend until smooth. Salt and (white) pepper this to taste.
At this point, you can either toss the two together to make it more of a salad, or you can serve them side-by-side so guests can choose how much sauce they fancy. I went with option #2.
So, with all these goodies, we had quite a spread! Add some wine, and it's a party (see below). :)
So. I still haven't decided whether or not to serve this dish at the Veganversary. Don't get me wrong-- it is outrageously delicious and beautiful. My only worry is that it's too thin and not filling enough to feed a crowd. We'll see.
Full coverage of the Veganversary next week!