Isaiah watched the movie Ratatouille awhile ago and asked if we could make "that dish" that Remy makes in it, and I said we probably could try that sometime. Recently, he saw eggplants at the vegetable stand when we were buying produce, and he asked if that was one of the things that Remy put in "that dish." That spurred him to get really excited recently and asking to make it. When a kid wants to make a dish full of veggies, you can't really say no! So, yesterday morning, I gave him his shopping list that I had made for him that had pictures, words, and a column to check when completed. After I went through it with him, I heard him outside with little brother explaining the list to him while I got my shoes on.
The place we buy vegetables here is a collection of stands at the major intersection (called "chowk" here). There are two bigger ones that we usually go to, and you have to look through the piles or crates of vegetables and often even just ask the owner to get you a certain amount of an item. Isaiah took his list very seriously. He was searching for the different items and even asked the owner about a few items, which is a notable step for him, as he sometimes doesn't engage less familiar adults very easily. He was quite the attraction for the locals (even more than usual!) with his clipboard and serious goal.
I did the chopping while he was having his quiet time and then watching a bit of the movie. Doesn't it look beautiful with all those fresh veggies?
I wish I could share the recipe we used, but I sort of used a mish-mash of various ones I found and actually just sort of decided to wing it since he REALLY was insistent on making it the way Remy did and usually notices a lot of details. So, we had to make circles to layer, we needed to bake it, and he wanted to drizzle something on top. He also really wanted to have the circle of parchment paper to put on top for cooking it, but that is just not available here. Just in case you can actually tell amounts of the various items in the photo below, I grossly overestimated the amount we would want and had enough to make ratatouille for an entire army! Ah, well, we've gotten some leftovers and plenty of veggies left to roast for other meals.
It would have been easier to just buy some tomato paste (which we can sometimes find here) and season it for layering on the bottom of the pan, but it is a bit expensive and not always available, so we sauteed some onions, garlic, and tomatoes in some olive oil until the onions were soft and the tomatoes had turned to sort of a paste. We added some green peppers (most recipes called for red and/or yellow peppers, which I think would be much better and look really pretty in the layers instead of the bottom, but they are difficult to find and very expensive here, so we went green). We added a bit of dried basil and parsley and a bit of salt and pepper. Then we poured this on the bottom of our pans (we made two and still had plenty of veggies leftover).
Then Isaiah layered the vegetables like he had seen Remy do. One aspect I hadn't really thought of as part of this was patterning. He was very focused on following the pattern to put eggplant, zucchini, and then tomato. The few times he mixed up a slice (which would clearly not have been a big deal), he corrected himself or asked me if he had it right.
Then we mixed up some olive oil, salt, pepper, some fresh oregano that our friend at our office had given us, and some thyme, and Isaiah spooned it over his dish.
This is his finished dish ready for the oven. (You may notice the mushrooms on top. We had bought mushrooms because I saw it listed in one, but not most, recipes, and it is actually a vegetable that Isaiah has been really liking lately. I had planned to put them in with the bottom saucy layer, but after we finished, Isaiah said, "What about the mushrooms?" We just sprinkled them on top.)
We baked it in our oven. It took longer than expected, which turned out to be because our gas cylinder for the oven was nearly empty, but it smelled wonderful while cooking. This is Isaiah's finished product. He was so excited and so proud of himself. Sadly, even all the excitement did not create a love for these veggies (which I knew he wasn't fond of but excited for a new chance to try them). We raved about how good it was, and after awhile at the table and asking him about not eating much, he said, "I don't really like it." He was convinced it was because I hadn't made it the way Remy did! I think he was disappointed, but I tried to talk up how much fun we had with the whole project, and he really did seem to feel happy about the whole experience, even if he doesn't love ratatouille! It really was a wonderful day of working on something together!