Can I Still Cook Like a Top Chef: Ratatouille

First I must apologize for my three week hiatus. I have the usual reasons for skipping blog postings: illness, exams, essays, life etc. So lets just get to this weeks episode.

I am enjoying this season much more than season one. Lisa is kicking butt as this years host, adding her little comments definitely reminds me of Padma. Top Chef Canada is also pulling out some serious guest judges (Susur Lee, Richard Blais) and they are finally showcasing some Toronto restaurants. I was getting tired of the judges eat in the Top Chef Canada dining room and their endless cocktail parties from last season.

This weeks episode opened with a chef skills compeition, a staple in Top Chef series, with Carl taking home a Wustof 12 piece knife set. (Like he doesn’t already have that) Honestly, I didn’t even notice Carl until last week, but it’s starting to look like he is a front runner. Their elimination challenge was to cater the lunch for the cast and crew of Lost Girl. Don’t worry I haven’t heard of it either.

We learned a little bit about David’s history, which was a nice addition to the episode. The headline of the NOW article was a bit misleading, you can find the link here. He was all over all the place while prepping this episode, but it was amusing to watch.

Jonathan won this weeks elimination challenge with his pulled pork wrap, and the judges sent Jimmy home with his green salad and oily minestrone. I will be tackling Carl’s ratatouille this week.

Ratatouille is a vegetable dish originating in Nice, France. Popularized by Julia Child in the 1960s, ratatouille is usually served as a side dish, or served with rice.

For inspiration I watched Ratatouille, which is my favourite Pixar movie, for obvious reasons. It’s a pretty simple dish, just sautéed vegetables.

Ratatouille
4 large tomatoes, blanched
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
15 fresh basil leaves, torn in half
⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 lb eggplant, cut into 1-inch cubes
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 large onions quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
3 assorted bell peppers (green, red, and/or yellow, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 medium zucchini, slice thinly
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1. Coarsely chop tomatoes and transfer to a 5-quart heavy pot with garlic, parsley, basil, and 1/3 cup oil. Simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes break down and sauce is slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.
2. While sauce is simmering, toss eggplant with 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large colander and let stand in sink 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, sauté onions with a pinch of salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer onions with a slotted spoon to a large bowl,
4. Cook bell peppers with salt over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 10 minutes. Transfer peppers with slotted spoon to bowl with onions.
5.Cook zucchini over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer zucchini with slotted spoon to bowl with other vegetables.
6. While zucchini are cooking, pat eggplant dry with paper towels. Cook eggplant over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 10 to12 minutes.
7. Add vegetables, remaining teaspoon salt, and black pepper to tomato sauce and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are very tender, about 30 minutes.
8. Garnish with basil, and parmesan cheese. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The Results:
This is probably the easiest dish I’ve made for Can I Still Cook Like a Top Chef? The tedious part is the cutting of the vegetables, but once you get past that, it’s effortless. Ratatouille is a great spring comfort food.

Follow Jen’s Recipe Box on Twitter for updates during the show!

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