movie and a meal

“Mmm. What is this?” It always makes me laugh to hear this question when my boys try something new. Movie night at our home sometimes includes a theme to tie in with dinner. We have tried meals that have become family favorites like “Over the Hedge Casserole,” “Wall-E Pizza,” and “My Guys’ Grilled Ratatouille.”

Inspired by Monica Bhide’s piece in Parents Magazine, dinner and a movie has made for some fun nights. She did theme meals with her boys, using their books for inspiration. For a meal with “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” Bhide created a scene with little broccoli trees and puffy clouds of mashed potatoes. And, of course, meatballs raining down.

A movie and dish that became fast favorites for us are “Ratatouille” and our recipe for “My Guys’ Grilled Ratatouille.” My feeling is that anything that tastes good- tastes even better grilled. Grilling the vegetables in the ratatouille gives a smokiness to the dish.

My guys are not fans of eggplant. (OK, neither am I. Unless, it is the breaded eggplant my friend’s Italian father makes, that we enjoy in batches, with red wine.) So, we omit the ingredient in our version. Everyone agrees the addition of the grilled pepper in the tomato sauce makes it better. It brings out the flavor of the fresh thyme as the tomato sauce simmers.

We serve the grilled ratatouille with a few spoonfuls of roasted tomato and red pepper sauce.  When it comes to adding grated cheese — to anything– my boys go for broke. They always want a good shower of grated cheese. It seems like one of the rules of childhood says there is no such thing as “too much cheese.” Maybe you never outgrow that philosophy. These days, we are enjoying a grated cheese that combines Asiago and Pecorino. We discovered it this summer, when we were stocking up on ingredients for grilled pizza, at Trader Joe’s. 

In “Ratatouille,”Remy, the little rodent with culinary skills, pulls out the recipe card for the dish in the title. The big moment has arrived to impress the sullen restaurant critic. (Insert French accent here.) “Are you sure you want to serve this to a restaurant critic? Peasant food?” a character asks. He prepares the ratatouille and lovingly tucks it into its dish with a blanket of parchment paper.

A reminder that sometimes, when you want to hit one out of the park, less is more.

My Guys’ Grilled Ratatouille

2 gloves garlic, peeled

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1  24 oz. can crushed tomatoes

6 sprigs thyme

salt and paper to taste

4 small green zucchini

4 small yellow squash

2 red peppers

any combination of herbs and grated cheese for garnish 

parchment paper

-Toss squash and pepper with 3 tbsp olive oil, salt, and pepper

-Grill vegetables on the grill.

-Place garlic and remaining olive oil in saucepan and start to warm through. when the scent of garlic is noticed after about 60 seconds, add crushed tomatoes and simmer with thyme about five minutes.

-Peel the skins from the red peppers when cool enough to handle and add to tomatoes. Place in blender and blend until smooth.

-Using a baking dish (oval or a 9×12 dish) turned upside down, trace the outline of the bottom of dish and cut out.

-Smooth tomato sauce in bottom of dish until coated. Save the rest for serving. Slicing the yellow and green squash, begin to layer in dish. You should have about three layers of vegetables when finished.

-Season with salt to taste and add some more thyme from remaining thyme sprigs.

-Lay parchment paper on top of the vegetables and smooth.

-When ready to serve, warm in a 250 degree oven for about 7-10 minutes.

We like our ratatouille over a bed of Israeli cous cous simmered in chicken stock.

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