Guest Post by Penelope Worley, Recipe by Jewels
I have been thinking that Julie Anne is really onto something when she says,“if you can read, you can cook.” Good cooks and creative ideas can sometimes come from the most random, common or unthought of places.
No better film is this idea conveyed then in the Disney/Pixar homage to all things French, “Ratatouille”. Charming and funny does not even cover this animated feature about a country rat who dreams of becoming a master chef.
Critics often dismiss Disney films as nothing more than a large corporation ruining an old fairytale but I implore you to watch this one with fresh eyes. Eyes that see food in a whole new way. The animation in this film is so amazingly beautiful you will almost be able to smell and taste the food! In addition, the city scenes of Paris at night or the detail of the french countryside are breathtaking not to mention little Remy’s first encounter with a real French kitchen is excruciating in its detail as well as a super fun ride to watch!
To add to the French nuances, the soundtrack is scrumptious and really puts you in the je ne sais quoi mode. What is more important is, there are two themes that stand out to me in this film, not to mention moments that brought me to misty eyes the first, second and third time I watched this delightful gem.
First,”…not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist CAN COME FROM ANYWHERE.” Perhaps all us who are JulieAnneRhodes.com members are not destined to make preparing food our creative career but I have hope that Julie Anne’s website will help bring and inspire one woman (or man) to become a great cook who gets to share their talents with the world (and I am guessing JAR does too)
The second theme and perhaps one of the best universal truths I have ever heard in an animated film is between Remy and his dad. Remy’s dad tells him that humans are his enemy, that he must be like other rats and look out for his own kind because ‘that is the way of things and you cannot change nature’, Remy boldly says “No. …No,I don’t believe it. Your telling me that the future is, can only be more of this?…change IS nature Dad. The part that we can influence. And it starts, when we decide…”Where ya goin?(Remy’s Dad)” With luck, forward.”
To be honest this scene has played in my brain many times and especially now it comes to mind with all that is happening in the horn of Africa. We can choose to cook and we can choose to make a change that will have a positive and lasting influence. So yes, a simple dish of Ratatouille can be more impressive than an exotic or elaborate recipe, a powerful message of inspiration can come from a Disney film, a great chef can be born of a stay-at-home mom and yes too, a former model, ex-rock star wife but forever mother can feed not only our mouths but our minds. And it all started when she decided… So gather up your kids (if you have them), a glass of vino, some crusty french bread and your favorite french cheese and watch “Ratatouille” -it’s foodspiration from an unlikely source.
One bite of this classic side dish and I’m transported back to the South of France instantaneously! The end of summer ripe tomatoes from the vine, the aromatic symphony of onion, garlic, peppers, oregano and basil, it’s body from the zucchini and eggplant – it all smacks of Provence for me. I prefer mine with a little Parmesan cheese, and you can see my variations below to turn this delicious side dish into full and fabulous meals.
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 onion, chopped
1 yellow pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium eggplant, chopped
2 medium zucchini, chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup Parmesan, grated (optional)
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
1). Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and peppers and cook until softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute.
2). Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, then the eggplant (which tends to soak up a bit of the oil). Cook until eggplant has softened. Add the zucchini, tomato paste and oregano. and cook until the vegetables are beginning to get color.
3). Add the chopped tomatoes, cook another 2 minutes, then add basil and Parmesan, season to taste, stir and remove from heat.
This classic side dish pairs exceptionally well with roast lamb, or any grilled meat or fish dish of your choice.
For a delicious pasta sauce, add an 8 ounce can of crushed tomatoes to the vegetables. Cook some penne al dente, toss with sauce and add small chunks of mozzarella fresco. The heat of the sauce should slightly melt the cheese, turning a side dish into a scrumptious meal.
For a more exotic Moroccan twist, substitute harissa for the tomato paste, cumin for the oregano and cilantro for the basil, add chickpeas and serve over couscous.