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Mealtime with Meredith: Ratatouille

Perkins' Ratatouille is a great and easy way to try new foods from different cultures.
Perkins' Ratatouille is a great and easy way to try new foods from different cultures.

One of the first things I learned to do in my high school French course was order French cuisine. 

I remember being forced to turn to whoever sat next to me and ask for croissants and verres de thé in French, thinking to myself, “When am I ever going to use this?”

Although my 15-year-old self could’ve never imagined using French past my sophomore year of high school, I am currently in my third year as a French minor at Miami and in my seventh college French course. 

I love studying French because I get to study francophone culture across the African and European diasporas, explore the history of the francophone literary tradition, and — my favorite part — learn different cuisines in different French countries.

This January, I took an architectural history course in Paris. In my first visit to a francophone country, I had the opportunity to try many authentic French dishes in-between my architecture field studies.

From tasting crème brûlée at a Christmas market in the Tuileries Gardens to enjoying confit de canard in the Latin Quarter, my escapades in French restaurants introduced me to dishes I had never tried before and cooking techniques I knew I wanted to replicate at home.

Now that I’m back in my gourmet chef’s kitchen (translation: my basic college apartment kitchen with two stovetop burners that don’t work half the time), I wanted to try to make one of the most iconic French dishes: ratatouille.

Made famous by generations of French home chefs (and, well, Remy the Rat), ratatouille is a traditional French stew that involves sliced layers of eggplant, tomato and zucchini. 

This dish is typically enjoyed in the summertime, so we’ll ignore the fact that I’m making it in  30 degree weather.

My ratatouille recipe, adapted from a recipe by Megan Miller, is a bit of an undertaking (lots of vegetables to finely slice!), but it is an entertaining journey to cook such a daunting meal, and it is a great, inexpensive recipe to cook with a friend or partner for a night in.

Photo by Meredith Perkins | The Miami Student
Pictured above are the affordable ingredients Perkins uses to make her Ratatouille dish.

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To start, I preheat the oven to 375 degrees and begin making the sauce. For my sauce, I combine five cloves of minced garlic, one diced onion, a 14 ounce can of crushed tomatoes and Italian seasoning to my heart’s content. 

While the mixture simmers, it’s vegetable chopping time. Put on your chef’s hat and chop three zucchinis, two eggplants and five roma tomatoes into thin circular slices. Be prepared: This part may take a while.

Once chopped, coat the bottom of a 9 by 9 pan with your sauce and start layering your ratatouille slices, alternating between eggplant, zucchini and tomato slices. You may need to slice your eggplant circles in half and/or double-up on zucchini slices in each row to make the width of the slices match.

Photo by Meredith Perkins | The Miami Student
Before baking the ratatouille, one must layer all of the chopped vegetables and for this dish presentation is key.

By the end of this step, you should look like you have a striped worm made of zucchini, eggplants and tomatoes curled into a little spiral. Then, cover with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes.

For serving, I whipped up some spaghetti and grilled some chicken breast tenderloins to serve on the side, though ratatouille alone can constitute a meal.

Then, all that’s left to do is enjoy your ratatouille and pop on the movie, while you’re at it.