Ratatouille with Pesto Crumble

I’m baaaaaaaaaack!  Two week hiatus?  Officially over.

This ratatouille was good enough to almost convert me to vegetarianism.  Get this: the only thing in this dish was zucchini, tomatoes, red pepper, eggplant, onion, and feta cheese (Mmmmm).  I hope you’re impressed mom.  Considering I haven’t had time to really eat anything in the past week, this ratatouille was a wonderful vacation away from the occasional bowl of Cheerios and leftovers to which I have lately become accustomed.  For anyone wanting a cheap and easy winter meal, this is the recipe for you.

Ahh, but of course there is an inspiration behind this meal…

I’ve been wanting to make this recipe ever since watching the animated movie Ratatouille a few weeks ago.  For anyone who hasn’t seen the film, it is the adorable tale of Remy the rat, a culinary connoisseur living in Paris.  Throughout the movie Remy, and his helpless-in-the-kitchen human friend Alfredo, dazzle the kitchen of a French restaurant.  At the end of the movie, Remy and Alfredo make ratatouille and melt the heart of a stone cold food critic.  Probably my favourite animated movie ever.  The clip below is from when Ego (the appropriately named food critic) is served Remy’s final dish.  Also, don’t you just love how perfect everything looks in Pixar movies?  Vegetables without a single blemish, the cutest little people, and bubbling soups that look like lava.

Also notable: this is my first time EVER trying eggplant.  Prior to this meal, I only knew it as that fairly attractive purple squash-shaped thing that sat atop the zucchini section.  Now I know it as a spongy piece of heaven with a chewy consistency.  Quite a wonderful discovery if I do say so myself.

PS: Feta is the most delicious thing in the universe.
PPS: I wasn’t sure how this pesto crumble thing would turn out, but the basil complimented the flavours of the vegetables and added a nice texture to the whole thing.  Good call Canadian Living.

Gruyere and Ham Pasta (Gruyere = the king of all cheese)

The insanity of what is my third year of university has finally begun in full force.  Rushing home from class and work today, Brittany (roomie) and I trekked down to the Byward Market in hunt of leather bracelets (Britt wants to be a rock star) and gruyere cheese.  Unable to find either of these two items (well this is a bit of a lie…the gruyere cheese at the International House of Cheese was, what I thought, super overpriced = not good), we sped off in Britt’s little hatchback and over to the trusty neighbourhood grocery store.

It was at this location that I found out buying a brick of gruyere cheese is nearly as expensive as buying a brick of solid gold.  Apparently the price of gruyere in the Market was actually reasonably priced, and I found myself paying $7.99 for a 195 gram piece of gruyere at the grocery store.  Refusing to accept any sort of cheese alternative for this recipe (although my iPhone tells me a cheaper alternative is emmental), I charged forth with my golden purchase, being sure to appreciate every delicious morsel of that damned cheese brick.

Preparing this Gruyere and Ham Pasta, I was faced with my largest “oh my god I need to cook so quickly” challenge to date.  THANK GOD this recipe was in the “make it in 30 minutes or less” section of my Canadian Living Make it Tonight cookbook.  If I had taken a minute longer to cook this meal, I would have made myself and all of my roommates late fora movie we were seeing.  As is I was forced to pack up my steaming dinner into a tupperware (post-food photographs, obviously) and charge off to the theatre, plastic Ikea fork in hand.  So everyone around me in the theatre could smell onions.. no big deal.

Also, this recipe called for chopped spinach, something I completely forgot to to add in at the last minute.  This being said, everything still tasted great (add lots of pepper though).  Thanks to my forgetful and rushed mind, I can look forward to a delicious baby spinach salad sometime later this week.  Perhaps it will involve strawberries.

Oooo, also this recipe made use of these fun little “Scoobi-doo” noodles, which I was disappointed to see did not resemble the cartoon character whatsoever.  Oh well, life goes on for those of us who are eternally young at heart.

PS: In case you are still rattled by how much I paid for the cheese (yes mom, I’m thinking you), this recipe actually made four servings, making the price for each serving be about $2.50.  Not the best, but not too shabby either.

Spiced Beef Skillet Dinner (and my first encounter with green olives)

I am beginning to distrust ground beef.  Making this meal, I casually took some ground beef out of the freezer (I never use things when I first buy them, I’m horrible!) and defrosted it in the microwave in preparation for skillet-frying.  This was a smooth process, and it wasn’t until I started to stove fry the beef that I suspected something fishy.  As I fried up this defrosted beef, my nose was unhappily tickled by an unpleasant scent.  Unsure of whether or not this smell was coming from the beef, and being the paranoid/neurotic person that I am, I shut off the stove and sniffed my way around the kitchen in search of this mysterious scent.  Unable to find the source, and being far too hungry to care any longer, I continued to cook the meat, smell and all.  In the future, I promise to use fresh ground beef, and avoid the freezer from here on in.

Another unhappy note: back in June, I announced that I discovered I did not like black olives.  It is with a heavy heart that I admit that green olives too have an absolutely awful flavour, and that their oil-based taste does not do me any favours.  When this meal was done, you could evidently tell I had picked around the green, doughnut shaped vegetable, and left them for the compost in a neat little pile on my plate.

All in all, this dish made fireworks go off in my mouth.  There were such bizarre spices in it, spices that I never thought would be seen together, including paprika, cinnamon, cumin, ginger and coriander.  Surprisingly enough, they all worked out, and the entire meal had a consistently spicy taste.  Perfect supper for someone who is trying to develop their palette!

The recipe was from my“Make it Tonight” cookbook, a book I need to start using more, since it has so many fantastic-looking recipes!  Perhaps I will cook my way through all of the Canadian Living cookbooks, a sort of Julie/Julia challenge, n’est pas?

PS: WHY can I NOT cook couscous?  The recipe in my cookbook was apparently “fail-proof,” however my couscous STILL ended up resembling mashed potatoes.  Couscous: a must conquer in the near-future.