Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Those of you with children will surely agree that children are the true rulers of the kitchen. Consciously or unconsciously, mothers try to include the food that the children want to eat. It makes dinner time less stressful. We do not have to nag them to finish their favorite food. Plus, there is less food waste. Often, we have to "hide" or disguise the nutritious food into the cooking or baking in order to get them to eat the food that we want them to eat. For example, when I want my family to eat oats, I have to include the oats in Dark Chocolate cookies which they devour in minutes. Recipe here.

On the other hand, we should also teach our children to eat well-balanced meals that include all spectrum of good nutritious food. Their food intake should not be limited to meat and sweets; but should also include seafood and vegetables.

I am glad that Daughter has learned to eat vegetables at an early age. This is probably because Hubby is also a veggie lover. We always have some kind of greens during meal time. The Son however is quite picky with his vegetables. He usually wants them jullienned thinly, and added to his soup. If stir-fried, he only picks the small cuts. That was why I was so surprised when he requested me to cook Ratatouille. Yup! It is due to the profound influence of the media on children. He was so curious about what a real Ratatouille is, and why Remy, the Rat, was able to transform the opinion of the dreaded food critic simply by cooking this common peasant French dish.

And so, I have to search the internet for a do-able Ratatouille recipe. Ratatouille seems like a simple dish using whatever vegetables and herbs that are in season. Since we live in a tropical country, the vegetable produce we have might be different from that of France. After searching and reading countless food sites on Ratatouille, I came up with this version. In the original recipes, each vegetable has to be sauteed in olive oil separately. I did not do this. I stir-fried the vegetables together and simmered them a bit to make the flavors meld together. Is this not the technique in cooking our own flavorful Pinakbet? I also added thin slivers of ham for a bit of flavor. The original versions use only pure herbs for flavor. Then, I baked the veggies topped with mozarella cheese. The resulting dish? A very delicious-looking, colorful dish that is every bit as flavorful as it looks. I think it is important that we use really fresh vegetables and good olive oil for this recipe. See the approval of Remy in the picture above? Thank you to my Doctor-sister in America who sent Remy the doll through one of her Balikbayan boxes.

1/2 C Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 large onions, sliced into rings
2 cloves garlic, mashed coarsely
1/2 C chopped ham ( I used leftover Christmas ham)
1 C fresh basil leaves, chopped
2 large bell peppers, deseeded, sliced into rings
2 large zucchinis, washed, sliced into rings
4 large tomatoes, deseeded, sliced into rings
4 eggplants, sliced into rings
salt and pepper
shredded mozarella cheese

1. Heat up some olive oil in a skillet. Add the onions and cook until softened. Then add garlic. Stir fry for a while then add the chopped ham.

2. Add the tomatoes when the ham is cooked. Simmer for a few minutes. Then add the eggplants. Cover and simmer for around 5 minutes.

3. Add the bell peppers and zucchinis. Stir fry for a few minutes more. Add the basil and turn off heat. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

4. Pour everything in a baking dish. Sprinkle liberally with mozarella cheese. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 350F, unril cheese melts, around 15 minutes.

5. Serve warm.

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