Ratatouille is one of the most frugal dishes in my repertoire. When my garden is in full swing the only ingredient I have to buy to make this dish is olive oil. As much as I like ratatouille, I must confess it has a couple of downsides. First, if I turn on the oven on a hot July day and only have vegetables to show for it, I will have a mutiny on my hands. Which brings me to the second problem with ratatouille: it is entirely comprised of vegetables. It takes more than a Disney movie to convince my kids to eat ratatouille.
I can get around cooking this dish in the oven by grilling the vegetables individually and then combining them to make the ratatouille:
Convincing the kids to eat it is a little trickier. Here are a few things that work for me:
Serve salad dressing on top. My daughter will eat most vegetables as long as she is allowed to put salad dressing on them. She defended her decision to add Asian dressing by saying, “Ratatouille is basically just a cooked salad”.
Serve it over rice. My oldest son doesn’t mind that ratatouille is comprised entirely of vegetables. He minds that dinner is comprised entirely of vegetables. Serving it over rice helps fill the ever-growing teenager’s hollow leg.
Top it with spaghetti sauce. My youngest child is still at the stage where he prefers his ratatouille hidden under a thick layer of spaghetti sauce.
Substitute vegetables. I made this recipe with traditional ingredients, but there was a time when my husband and kids would not eat eggplant. If members of your family will not eat one of the vegetables in the recipe, you can substitute it with potatoes. I also try to add ingredients my family likes. I found some portabella mushrooms on sale and splurged since my husband enjoys them.
- 1/4 cup olive oil + extra to brush veggies before grilling
- 2 medium onions quartered
- 2 peppers quartered
- 2 Japanese eggplants cut in 1 inch slices lengthwise
- 2 medium zucchini cut in 1 inch slices lengthwise
- 2 medium yellow squash cut in 1 inch slices lengthwise
- 4 large tomatoes halved
- 8 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon fresh marjoram
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley
- pinch of salt
- dash of pepper
- Light the grill.
- In a small bowl, combine olive oil with the basil, marjoram, thyme, and parsley.
- Use 1/2 of the oil mixture to brush over the vegetables.
- Grill the vegetables approximately 4 inches from the flame. Grill tomatoes, peppers, garlic, and mushrooms for 6-7 minutes. Grill the zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant, and onions for 13 – 15 minutes.
- Put the garlic cloves through a garlic press and add to the oil mixture.
- Chop the vegetables and place them in a large bowl. Pour oil mixture over vegetables and toss to thoroughly coat.
- I serve this at room temperature over a bed of greens, but I am willing to make some modifications to ensure my children enjoy (and eat) their dinner.
Erin here: Love how this meal costs Alea so little because of her garden harvest!!!
Tricia H says
I love your stories of how you get your children to eat it! Plus the savings from your garden bounty. Hooray!
Dana @ Budget Dietitian says
Ratatouille is one of my favorite dishes. I love to sprinkle feta on top. YUM!
Erin, The $5 Dinner Mom says
Great idea Dana…nom, nom!
I love this idea!! I am going to try it. The first time I ever made ratatouille it was a disgusting oily, mushy mess. haha! I’ve improved since though. 🙂
We all have to start somewhere and now you are a fabulous cook!
Grilling the vegetables is a great way to ensure they don’t get mushy. They are slightly crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.
That is exactly the kind of recipe I’ll be needing next week after a week at a cottage with burgers, hotdogs, sausages or bacon every day!