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how to get kids to eat their veggies

February 9, 2010

a.k.a. Why Disney should make more movies about food.

It started with a movie about a special little rat with a love of food. But not just food – a love of cooking.  My kind of rat. Yes I know the movie is a few years old now, but when it first came out my kids were afraid of it – apparently the scene when they put Remy in the oven is a little frightening. So it wasn’t until it came on TV a couple months ago that they had any interest whatsoever in watching it again. Since then it has become one of their favorites. I knew it wouldn’t be long.

“Mom, can we make Ratatouille like the movie?”

Since we have recently started a weekly fancy dinner night and since I have been trying to remember to say yes more often, I told them we could give it a try. So I googled “how to make Ratatouille like the movie” and found a New York Times article featuring the actual recipe that inspired the dish in the movie.

To cut down on time and expense, we did things a little differently. I used red peppers only instead of all three colors and dried herbs because that is what I had on hand. I also used a can of diced tomatoes instead of peeling and seeding fresh ones for the “piperade”. We couldn’t find the Japanese eggplant, so I bought a smallish regular eggplant and quartered it before slicing. Instead of cooking at a low temp for 2 hours, we cranked it up to 450 and it was ready in 30 minutes.

It wasn’t all that difficult to prepare, but I would highly recommend the use of some kind of slicer to save time and make sure your slices are thin and even. I used a mandolin and had perfect 1/16 inch slices of all the veggies in less than 10 minutes.

It starts with the piperade (the yummy sauce in the bottom), a combination of roasted peppers, onions, garlic, tomatoes and herbs cooked until soft and then pureed. Save about a tablespoon of the sauce for later.

Then you layer on the thinly sliced veggies – zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant and  tomatoes. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper and bake.

While your work of art is in the oven, you prepare the vinaigrette by blending together the piperade you saved, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. The ratatouille is ready when the veggies are soft. We sliced it and drizzled a little of the vinaigrette around and over the top.

I looked at that pile of vegetables fully expecting the kids to take one bite and run. After all, these are kids who pick the green peppers and onions off their pizza and push aside any chunks of tomato that might end up in their spaghetti. But much to my surprise, everyone (except the littlest one, who is currently on a food strike) loved it!

It is a little light for a main course, so I would recommend serving it with bread and salad. Yum!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 9, 2010 5:41 pm

    You are so smart! What an adventure you all had. The photos look like a gorgeous cooking show!


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