It had been month’s since I had promised one of our closest family friends a full Zainab-cooked meal. Somehow or the other, I always had exams coming up. What could I do? The semester system was what it was. So as soon as I got a few days away from my books, my mother coerced me into preparing the afore-mentioned meal. Among the dishes I prepared, the one I always have the most fun making, and the one I always look forward to eating, was the ratatouille. Now, the way I make it is probably different from the way most people would. In fact, I think that many an Frenchman may even object to it being called ratatouille. Nevertheless, whatever you make like to call it, it is delicious, vegetarian, and easy to whip up.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 large onion, chopped into tiny tiny bits
10 cloves garlic, sliced/diced – I know this may seem like a lot, but believe me, it is worth it!
1 large or 2 medium eggplants, diced
3 medium tomatoes, chopped into relatively large chunks
2 medium zucchini, diced into large chunks
1 tsp of each of the following: oregano, terragon, cilantro and parsley (dried, of course)
1 tsp each of salt and pepper
1 can of corn (the usual can you get at the superstore – Malee, American Garden, whatever)
optional: boneless chicken chunks
1 1/2 pack egg noodles
Here’s what you do:
1) First off, if you’re going to be adding the boneless chicken chunks (for those of you who don’t want to go veggie) then you need to fry them separately in some vegetable oil for a few minutes, until they are a nice golden-brown color and set them aside.
2) Prepare the egg noodles. It’s very simple – nothing fancy. Take a big pot, fill it with water, sprinkle in 1 tsp of salt, and heat it until the water boils. (Scientific fact: salt lowers the boiling point of water) Then, when the water is boiling, add the noodles, and voila! They will soften almost instantly. Cook for 5/10 minutes, stirring once or twice. Then drain the noodles, and rinse them with cold water. (They are meant to be chilled.) Then run a little olive oil through them. 2 tbsp should be more than enough.
3) Now we come to the fun part. Heat up some oil in a large, deep and flat pot, toss in the chopped onions, and all the garlic (after you’ve peeled those pesky little papery shells off). Saute until tender.
4) Add the eggplants and tomatoes, and cover the pot for 15 minutes, allowing everything inside to get a nice cooking. What I like o do it put in the tomatoes first, and kind of layer the eggplant slices over, as if they’re shingles. This allows the tomatoes to get a nice, toasty taste, and let’s the heat slowly seep up to the eggplant, without burning anything.
5) Add the zucchini. At this point, you want to stir a little, just to bring the tomatoes up from the bottom of the pot. Close the pot again and let it sit on heat for another 15 minutes.
6) Remove from heat, and stir in the herbs. Save a tiny bit to sprinkle over the noodles.
7) Arrange it all in a plate so that it looks nice. Sprinkle corn over it all, and stir some into the noodles.
It should look something like this: