When I went with my first child to get braces, I wasn’t really prepared for any of it: the huge expense, the cold grip around my heart at seeing my child made so old all of the sudden, his mouth filled with metal. And I wasn’t prepared for his pain, for his panic at feeling trapped by an appliance glued in his mouth.
Yesterday was my second time around putting a child in braces, this time with Juju. And I was ready, for all of it: the pain, the emotions, and, most importantly, the menu.
There’s nothing worse than coming home with those braces, emotionally shaken, and terrified of making the pain worse by eating. I knew we’d need soft, but delicious foods to be able to see her new bejeweled smile. Macaroni and cheese could be a day two treat, for the first day, I was ready with something truly special: ratatouille. There are few other dishes that taste like comfort food, that are actually good for you. Each bite of ratatouille tastes like an afternoon in the South of France, full of olive oil and rosemary.
Ratatouille, with its soft yet flavorful vegetables, is the perfect food for the pain of new braces. And it’s healthy too! Each bite tastes like sunshine in a bowl. It’s also truly a labor of love to make, so it felt like a special gesture. The tomatoes need to be blanched and peeled. All those vegetables need to be chopped. Ratatouille isn’t a frequent part of my dinner line up, but when it all comes together, layer after layer of vegetables coaxed to the peak of their flavor, I always regret not making it more.
I’m not sure the ratatouille will be enough to bring a smile to Juju’s face tonight, but it will be my best shot. And at least I’ll be enjoying it too!
- 1 eggplant, diced into 1 inch cubes
- 1 red pepper, diced into 1 inch cubes
- 1 green pepper, diced into 1 inch cubes
- 3 small yellow squash, diced into 1 inch cubes
- 3 small zucchini, diced into 1 inch cubes
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 4 aromatic tomatoes - either great summer tomatoes or tomatoes on the vine in the winter, blanched, peeled and seeded, cut into 1 inch cubes
- ¾ cups of water + 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon or two sprigs of rosemary (preferably fresh)
- 1 teaspoons or one long sprig of thyme (preferably fresh)
- ⅓ cup of olive oil - to be added as needed as you cook
- salt and pepper
- Cut all of your vegetables, prepping them in individual bowls.
- Blanch the tomatoes, peel them, seed them, and cut them into cubes. Place in own bowl.
- Measure the water and add the tomato paste, stir to mix.
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
- Place an oven safe dutch oven on the stove as well as a large frying pan. Heat the dutch oven over medium low heat. Add the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and onions and garlic and saute slowly until soft, about 5 minutes.
- While the onions are cooking, light the flame under your frying pan on medium-high heat. Add two tablespoons of olive oil and cook the zucchini cubes until browned on all sides. Pour into the dutch oven.
- Add another 2 tablespoons of olive oil and saute the yellow squash until caramelized (lightly browned) and softened. Add to the dutch oven.
- Pour in more olive oil and saute the eggplant. This will take a little longer than the zucchini and squash - about 5 minutes. Add to the onions.
- Periodically stir the onion mixture. to make sure it's not burning.
- Add more olive oil to the pan and saute the peppers - together is fine. Add them to the other veggies when lightly browned.
- Add the rosemary and thyme and the water with the tomato paste. Stir a few times and place in the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, stir in the chopped tomatoes. Salt and pepper to taste.
- You can serve this ratatouille warm or cold. The flavors will be even better the next day. I love my ratatouille with an over easy egg on top.