I went for my first 8 mile run this weekend.
It was a run-walk, to get me back in shape after my foot injury.
It felt so great, and we made good time.
Until the very end of the run, when I suddenly felt sharp pain in my knee, which made it difficult to walk, let alone run.
I’m learning a lot about my body, about pushing it, about when to work through discomfort and when not to.
I’m learning how mental running is.
And how hard.
I know when I finish that 1/2 marathon I am going to feel so proud, because this is quite the journey!
After our run, we went to the farmer’s market.
I found some beautiful eggplants.
It made me think of one of my most favorite recipes, ratatouille.
I’m not talking about the cartoon with the rat who wants to be a French chef.
This is a real dish and might just be my husband’s favorite meal.
I am not exaggerating when I say it’s the world’s best.
I’ve been making this ratatouille for about 7 or 8 years; long before the movie came out and most people heard of ratatouille for the first time.
I loved it before it became famous.
I saw the recipe years ago in a Martha Stewart magazine and it looked so good I had to try it.
I followed the recipe religiously and it came out great.
The next time I made it, I changed it a little.
7 years later, most of the main elements remain the same, but I have given it my own twist and I think it is even better than the original.
It is definitely easier.
It is chock full of vegetables and a really good for you dish that still feels like a treat.
You can’t beat it.
The thing that sets this recipe apart from almost all other ratatouille recipes that I have seen is that before you stew the veggies, you roast them.
Roasting the eggplant and zucchini gives them so much more depth of flavor than simply stewing them.
It brings out the sweetness of the vegetables.
It makes all the difference in the world.
Before I give you the recipe, I’ll give you a few tips so it will come out perfect.
It’s the kind of recipe you’ll want to make on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
You won’t be spending hours actually cooking the dish, but you will need time to roast them, which means you need to be around.
To prep the eggplant and zucchini for roasting, chop them into a large dice.
Mine were 1 inch squares all around.
Remember, when you roast them they will shrink up quite a bit, so you want them big to start with.
Also, if you cut them too small, they will cook too fast and not develop that rich sweetness you’re looking for.
You should also roast your own peppers.
It isn’t hard at all.
I know you are rolling your eyes and saying, “I don’t have time for that nonsense.”
But trust me, you can do it.
The original recipe called for holding each pepper over the flame of your gas grill or bbq.
I tried that.
It took forever.
And a day.
I’m a mom with 4 little kids–I don’t have forever and a day.
Or even a day.
So, I solved the problem by putting the peppers on a rimmed cookie sheet and roasting them in the oven.
As each side turns black, I open the oven, and turn the pepper until all the sides are black.
It takes just a moment to flip the pepper and the whole thing is roasted in 15-20 minutes.
When the whole thing is black, and the skin is like paper, I pull it out of the oven and plop it into a bowl.
I then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the pepper steam for a good 10 minutes at least.
When it’s done steaming, you take it out of the bowl and the skin almost falls off in your hands.
And way better tasting than store bought roasted peppers.
There is no comparison really.
For the tomatoes, though, I take a totally different approach.
I used canned.
First time I made this ratatouille, I peeled, cored, seeded and chopped fresh tomatoes.
And then I said, “never again.”
If you have ever peeled, cored, seeded and chopped fresh tomatoes, you know what I mean.
It takes forever.
And a day.
Or maybe longer.
Being a mom of 4 and all, I opted for the easy way out.
There are some really good canned tomatoes out there, so you don’t have to worry about these tomatoes spoiling your ratatouille.
I like to use fire roasted tomatoes, but you can just use regular if you want.
The Muir Glen organic fire roasted are my particular favorite.
After you have roasted your veggies, sauteed the onions and garlic, then you pour everything into one pot.
You let it just simmer for 30 minutes, or much longer if you want.
It just gets better the longer you cook it.
It will all come together in one sort of brownish mess.
Ratatouille is not the prettiest dish.
But I promise, the taste is divine.
It is also very good over pasta.
If you steer clear of pasta, as I usually do, you could save that for a treat.
Or try the brown rice and quinoa pasta at Trader Joe’s.
I just had it for the first time and it was good.
For another treat, ratatouille makes a fabulous topping for pizza.
It’s like a thick, vegetable stew.
If you want some protein in it, add some lean, chicken italian sausage.
You really can’t go wrong.
So when you come home from that 5:30 am boot camp class, you can have it for breakfast.
I like it with a poached egg on top.
And remember, eating real, nourishing, food is an essential part of a living fit lifestyle.
So get cooking and Keep On Living Fit!