My worries have been proven a little true - it's more difficult to keep up with the blog now that I'm working. And, the extent to which I productively concentrate on food has also slipped. I do spend a fair amount of time in unproductive concentration on food - this includes (1) thinking of quick meals that enable me to hold on to one of the household chores (cooking) that I am not prepared to completely turn over to Vilma and (2) realizing that the time I am away from the boys results in an increase in the amount of time they eat what typical Dominican children eat.
Oh the sugar! If there was any doubt about how Dominicans contributed to the economic stability of their own country, rest assured, they keep the sugar industry well supported. Dominican children (yes, I am freely generalizing here) eat a ton of candy. This candy gets passed to the boys in places from the doctor's office to school from the neighbors' children to random people on the street (yes, pure stranger danger there!). I came home yesterday to find our two year old sucking on a BlowPop that he was washing down with a juice box (in which the first two ingredients were water and sugar…nice). I hadn't realized when I was at home how much I regulated those things (i.e. threw them away or refused them before the boys could catch the offer). It also makes me realize that I completely took for granted in the States that my children's childcare providers were not passing this stuff on to my kids. I think the most I ever had to do was ask my mom not to give my oldest cereal bars because the third ingredient was high fructose corn syrup - but, at least those things actually had fruit…and a grain of some sort.
I have completely digressed from where I intended to go with this post. So, back on track. Recently, my vegetable hating four year-old has been really into the movie Ratatouille. He asked me the other day if I know how to make Ratatouille. I said, yes - which is basically true - I know how to roast vegetables in the oven. In fact, I told him that I had made it once and he wouldn't eat it because it had vegetables. To this he exclaimed that he would have eaten it had he known it was ratatouille. "Maybe the one you made didn't look like the one from the movie Mom." "Well," I thought, "that's true. It was really just some vegetables in a pan." So we agreed - we would make Ratatouille. I did my research - that is, I watched the part of the movie where the make the ratatouille. You can't learn much from watching a cartoon rat make a dish - in case you were wondering. But, I did figure I could come up with something that looked like the thing in the movie. Tonight we went to work in the kitchen together. Dominican holiday so no work, no school = plenty of time to make dinner = happy Mommy.
As always, I had to use what was available here, so this may not be super traditional, but it was really, really good. And, in the end, it wasn't that time consuming - about 30 minutes to prep and one hour of cooking time unattended. It serves 4-6. Here you go:
- 1 large carrot, peeled and very thinly sliced
- 1 zucchini, very thinly sliced
- 2 small-medium sized potatoes (red or Yukon gold), very thinly sliced
- 4 Roma tomatoes, very thinly sliced
For the Sauce:
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ½ red bell pepper, diced
- 1 small onion diced
- 3 garlic cloves crushed
- 5 fresh sage leaves chopped
- leaves from 3 sprigs fresh rosemary chopped
- two tbsp tomato paste
- a pinch of sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add the bell pepper, sage and rosemary and sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and about ½ cup water, stir and allow to simmer. As the water cooks down, add more little by little until you get the consistency of a chunky sauce. Add a pinch of sugar and salt and pepper to taste.Spread the sauce into the bottom of a 9x9 inch glass pan. It should thoroughly cover the bottom - there should be plenty of sauce, use it all. Begin to make layers with your veggies by making little stacks in your hand (e.g. carrot, potato, zucchini, tomato). Place the veggies in the pan on their ends, slightly tilted (a little like the way Oreos look in the plastic packing). Do this until you have long rows of veggies.
Bake for one hour until the sauce is bubbling up into the veggies, the veggies are tender and some areas are crispy on top. You'll find when you eat it that the onions in the sauce will have caramelized and the tops of some of the veggies will have taken on a chewy/crispy texture while the bottoms will be super tender.
Serve with a green salad and crusty bread. Enjoy!