You know, when I was watching it, I never would have guessed that the star recipe of the new foodie movie, Ratatouille, was both vegan and gluten free. It never even occurred to me that it might be, as French restaurants are not generally what I think of when I think of gluten free, vegan cuisine. Imagine my surprise as I read at Becks & Posh that the featured recipe for Ratatouille was both vegan and Gluten Free. When I discovered this, of course I had to make the recipe! I love dishes that “just happen” to be gluten free AND vegan, as they usually end up being DELICIOUS as well. The recipe was created by Thomas Keller, the genius behind French Laundry, and can be found here at the New York Times (with a free login) or at the Lunch Lady’s Blog.
But what is Ratatouille, anyway? According to Stacy Finz of the San Francisco Chronicle,
“Traditionally, ratatouille is a late-summer dish from Provence, incorporating the mainstays of the harvest in that southern French region — tomatoes, eggplant, onions, bell peppers, zucchini, garlic and fresh herbs, simmered in local olive oil. In Turkey, cooks prepare imam biyaldi, in which the eggplant acts as a shell to hold the vegetable filling. The name translates as “the cleric swooned” — presumably with pleasure when the dish was served. ” (source: BAY AREA FLAVORS FOOD TALE)
Thomas Keller’s recipe for Ratatouille is called Confit Byaldi, and has three components- a piperade (an olive oil sautee of onion, sweet bell peppers, and tomatoes), the main vegetable layer, and a vinaigrette. It sounded absolutely lovely, but I felt that it needed a side dish of pilaf or perhaps French Bread to make a complete meal. Therefore I dipped into The Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook : 250 No-Fail Recipes for Pilafs, Risottos, Polenta, Chilis, Soups, Porridges, Puddings and More, from Start to Finish in Your Rice Cooker to find a delicious recipe for French Pilaf that I adapted to be vegetarian. Because making Confit Byaldi is a lengthy process (about three hours from start to finish!) I started the piperade before beginning my rice, although I could have just let it sit in the rice cooker. This recipe relies on fresh, seasonal vegetables, and so I harvested some of the first tomatoes from the organic, heirloom tomatoes I’ve been growing on my balcony all summer. I heated olive oil in a pan and sauteed garlic, onions, diced roasted red peppers and tomatoes, letting them caramelize. Next I prepared my vegetables. Fist I tried using a mandoline to thinly slice disks of yellow squash and zucchini, but when I tried to slice my eggplant, it didn’t work well, so I finally dragged out my food processor. When I saw the perfect, beautiful disks it created in seconds, I wished I’d sliced all the vegetables in my food processor. (Note to self: next time forget the mandoline and go straight to the electronic appliance!) Next was the fun part. I took my simmered vegetable piperade and spread it evenly across the bottom of the cast iron pan. Next I took my gorgeous vegetable disks, along with sliced heirloom tomatoes, and placed them in the pan on top of the piperade, spiralling out from the center and making sure that 1/4 inch of each vegetable disc was exposed. Then I drizzled garlic thyme olive oil over the vegetables and seasoned them to taste. And next, because I’m silly that way, I took about a billion photos of the pretty thing that I’d made:
After patting myself on the back a few dozen times, I baked the vegetables, covered, on a low temperature for two hours. Then I started the French Butter Rice in my rice cooker, put the confit back in the oven, uncovered for another thirty minutes. I made the accompanying vinaigrette, and when it was done, placed the confit under the broiler for final browning, and plated my delicious, delicious gourmet French feast. DH, who ordinarily isn’t exactly thrilled by ANY of the ingredients, gobbled up his Confit Byaldi and French butter rice with as much enthusiasm as he would have for any meaty French dish, which is saying a lot. I thought it was a delicious summery dish, full of vegetable goodness. If it didn’t take so long, I would make it all the time. It’s an ideal dish for using up some of the most bountiful vegetables of the summer. If you have a surplus of tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant in your garden, why not take a leaf from a “little chef” from Disney that was inspired by a real live Bay area chef, and make your own Ratatouille? Your own in house critics of summer veggies might just have to change their minds, once they taste a bite of this heavenly summer dish.
Interested in more French Laundry cuisine? Try the gorgeous blog French Laundry at Home that tests recipes from the French Laundry cookbook.
Want more Ratatouille Recipes?
A simple recipe for Ratatouille from the Canadian Food Network
Provence and Beyond’s recipe for ratatouille
An English/French recipe for Nicoise Ratatouille by La Tartine Gourmande
Smitten Kitten’s recipe for Ratatouille
Kalyn’s Ratatouille Wanna-Be
The Ratatouille Recipe from Cooking for Engineers
French Butter Rice
1/4 cup (or less) unsalted butter or olive oil (butter gives most flavor)
1/2 cup chopped onions of choice- white, red, or even shallots
2 cups favorite rinsed and drained white rice (not basmati)
3 1/4 cups vegetable stock (from bullion is fine, but of course from scratch is best)
1/2 tsp salt
Turn on rice cooker and melt butter (or heat oil) in the rice cooker pan. Add onions or shallots, and let cook until they are soft or until your rice cooker turns itself off. Stir occasionally. Put your drained rice in and stir thoroughly. Turn on rice cooker again or let it continue to cook. Stir occasionally until grains are coated with butter/oil and mixed with onions. The rice may become faintly translucent. Add vegetable stock and salt and let cook for the rest of a natural cooking cycle. (Or an entire cooking cycle).
Leave rice in machine on “warm” option for about ten minutes and then fluff the rice with a rice paddle or your favorite non metallic spoon. You can leave rice on warm until the rest of the meal is ready (not longer than 2 hours.) Serve warm. Also excellent reheated in the microwave for the next few days. Probably freezes well.