Even before I went to see the movie, I was inspired by a Boston Globe recipe for Ratatouille Tian - 'a mixture of vegetables, all very thinly sliced, tucked into tight overlapping concentric circles in a shallow dish and baked together'. Pictured at right is what I made for dinner a few nights ago, pretty much following Sheryl Julian's simplified version of the dish served in the movie to that most wonderfully named critic, Anton Ego.
Olive oil (for sprinkling)
8 small zucchini
8 small yellow squash
12 small ripe tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
3 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
1. Set the oven at 400 degrees. Lightly oil a 10-inch round or oval gratin dish, or use a cast-iron skillet.
2. Use a slicing device to cut the zucchini and squash into paper-thin rounds. With a serrated knife, slice the tomatoes thinly.
3. Take 3 slices of zucchini and set them along the edge of the pan, slightly overlapping. Do the same with 3 slices of squash, then 3 slices of tomato. It's okay to make the vegetables very tight in the pan. Sprinkle them with oil, salt, pepper and 1 tbsp. each of the thyme and oregano. Cover the pan with a circle of parchment paper cut to fit exactly.
4. Bake the tian for 40 minutes or until the vegetables are very tender. Discard the parchment paper, and add the remaining thyme and oregano.
As you can see in the photo, I used a single color for each of the concentric rings, starting with yellow squash all the way around, then alternating with zucchini and yellow squash again until I reached the center. I sliced the tomatoes afterwards and just tucked them in wherever they looked good. Because my cheapo mandoline doesn't slice thin enough, it took me quite some time to slice all the squash, but that was probably the best thing about the finished ratatouille. Fresh herbs just picked from my deck pots, sprinkled over those super thin slices which got perfectly tender but not brown under their parchment paper covering, moved the dish from one I've always liked to something extra special. I wasn't the least bit worried last night at the movie when ratatouille was what they decided to serve Monsieur Ego. I already knew it would be great.