Cooking for Losers – Ratatouille and Not Flatbread

January 26, 2009

So, I had to nix the flatbread. You have to try the recipe sometime but it just could not go with the Cooking for Losers philosophy. Once I figured the nutrition it was about 400 calories per serving. Now, I could have told you to only eat half of a serving but, seriously people, that is so unrealistic. So, instead I’ll recommend a few other sides for your ratatouille. French bread is my top choice to go with it because it will soak up the juices. An extra healthy option would be some grilled chicken but if you use the tofu in the dish, you won’t be in need of the protein. You could also serve the dish on top of some brown rice. A final alternative is to add a thinly sliced potato in with the rest of the veggies in the dish to beef up the fillingness. Still, you should go for the bread. When you see how few calories the dish has in it, you’ll be willing to go for the bread. If you keep whatever you add to it at about 150 calories a serving you’ll still be at or under our 400 calorie limit even if you add the optional cheese. And, let me just tell you, if you eat all 400 calories of this meal, you will be so full.

I’ll warn you right now, unless you’ve got a mandolin or a food processor that slices, this dish is pretty labor intensive. If you slice veggies while the sauce is simmering the whole dish takes about 1 1/2 hours start to finish and for an hour of that, the dish is in the oven and you’re free to do whatever.

Ok, so here’s the ingredient list again in case you missed it, I added a couple of optional ingredients that punch up the flavor a bit but are totally optional:

1 tbs olive oil

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 28oz can crushed tomatoes

1 tsp basil (optional – We use this frozen stuff by Dorot that’s pretty good although it must be cooked with whatever dish your making. Fresh basil is typically added at the end of the dish but the frozen cubes need to cook to get an odd aftertaste out of them)

1 tsp balsamic vinegar (optional)

(The following veggies are my favorite combination but really any veggie combo works)

2 green zucchini (are there other colors?), thinly sliced (about 1/4-1/2 inch – just try to make all the veggie slices about the same size.)

2 yellow squash, thinly sliced

4 roma tomatoes, thinly sliced

1 medium purple onion, thinly sliced

8oz sliced mushrooms of your choice or 1 small eggplant (I can’t stand eggplant so I usually do mushrooms – this time I’m going to try tofu), thinly sliced

1 tsp thyme (optional)

1 tsp oregano (optional)

Feta, Goat, or Parmesan Cheese to sprinkle on top (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the garlic and the olive oil in a 12 inch skillet or saucepan and heat over medium high. Once the garlic is fragrant, stir in the crushed tomatoes (and frozen basil, if using). Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, once it boils, reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 20 minutes. (If using fresh basil instead of frozen, add after the 20 mins.) Stir in balsamic or red wine vinegar, if using. Give it a taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed.

2. Pour the prepared tomato sauce (that makes a great, simple, spaghetti sauce by the way – you’ll never by the jarred stuff again!) into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish or baking dish of a similar size (I always wish I had a pretty oval one for when I make this). Top the sauce with your sliced veggies. You can be as artistic with this part as you like. I usually like a scallopped look with alternating colors but it doesn’t really make a difference how you do it. Sprinkle the veggies with the oregano, thyme, and or whatever other herbs you like (can you tell this dish is flexible?) as well as a good dash of salt and pepper. If you have some parchment paper on hand, cut a piece to fit within the dish and lay on top of the veggies. Then top the whole dish with tin foil, if you don’t have parchment, just the foil works too.

3. Bake for one hour. If using one of the cheeses, uncover the dish after 45 minutes and sprinkle with cheese. Bake, uncovered, for the last 15 minutes.

The ENTIRE THING (without the cheese) is about 830 calories if you use tofu, 730 if you use eggplant or 690 if you use mushrooms. So even if you eat 1/4 of it (which is unlikely), you’ll only be getting about 208/183/173 calories – so definitely add some cheese! By the way, I’ve never tried the tofu in it before so if you try it along with me and it’s gross I will not be blamed. It should be good though, Tofu pretty much picks up whatever flavors it is in. If you don’t use the tofu then you may be better off to skip the bread and use the grilled chicken as a side. Ok, I’ve done enough talking…sorry.

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