My first dinner guest arrived in Paris last night! My aunt Elizabeth decided to spend the night in Paris (she was coming from her hometown of Brighton, England) and as soon as she told me she was coming, my mind started racing, trying to think of various dinner options to prepare for her.

Because my aunt is a vegetarian, my choices were thankfully narrowed down. I browsed through The New Moosewood Cookbook (by Mollie Katzen, Ten Speed Press, Berkely California; 1977), and as soon as I saw a recipe for ratatouille, I knew I had to make it. I also love the animated film with the same title, featuring a talking French rat, so I took it as fate and went out to buy my groceries.

When I arrived back home, groceries in hand, I dove in to work, dicing up the vegetables and hoping that the meal would come together nicely. And if the picture of the ratatouille doesn't do it justice, I hope my words can. The silkiness of the eggplant combined with the mild spice of cumin and chili powder create a smoky sensation in your mouth, leaving a nice aftertaste that changes in heat and dimension as time goes on. It's so good, I dreamed about it last night!

Serve it with a nice salad (I made mine with butter lettuce, basil, cherry tomatoes, and a dressing of olive oil, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, chopped shallots, salt & pepper), and please, I beg of you, serve this dish with a fresh baguette; nothing tastes better than dipping a piece of bread in the sauce, finishing the meal off perfectly.

The dish requires a bit of prep work to cut the vegetables and herbs, but it comes together so easily and you only need one large skillet to make it. It's so yummy, and if you're making it for one person, even better - you'll have leftovers which taste so good for lunch or dinner the next day.

Merci à tous, et je vous souhaite un très bon dîner !

To make the ratatouille, you'll need olive oil, 2 garlic cloves, 2 medium onions, 1 small eggplant, salt, basil, thyme, 1 small zucchini, 1 bell pepper, 1 7-oz can tomato sauce, fresh parsley, cumin, chili powder, and cayenne pepper.

Chop up the garlic, onions, 1 1/2 tsp basil, and 1 1/2 tsp thyme, and cut the eggplant, zucchini and bell pepper into small cubes (try to make them around the same size so they cook at the same speed). Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the onion and garlic, and saute over medium heat until onions are slightly golden, about 5 minutes.

Add the eggplant, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp. chili powder, and cayenne to taste, and stir. Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes ,stirring occasionally.

Add the zucchini, bell peppers, black pepper, and tomatoes. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes more, or until the zucchini and bell pepper are tender.

You can serve it right away, or serve it cold - it's delicious either way! I'll be in Deauville for the next two days, and am hoping to get some new inspiration for French cooking. I'll be sure to keep you posted!


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