Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ratatouille Crostini

I love ratatouille. The movie was incredibly cute and the dish is insanely delicious! If you've never had this dish, made famous by the Pixar movie, you must try it immediately! (Tyler Florence, one of my favorite Food Network chefs, has a great recipe online.) It's a big crowd pleaser and always a staple for Italian Nights at my house.

This weekend, when I was craving it again (something that happens frequently), I decided to spice things up by turning this classic side dish into a beautiful and oh-sooooo-delicious appetizer. What can be better than ratatouille piled high on crispy, herb seasoned crostini?

Here's what you'll need: onion, garlic, tomato, eggplant, zucchini, fresh fennel (aka sweet anise), fresh basil, mini fresh mozzarella balls, 1 baguette, tomato paste, and anchovy paste.

First, slice your bread at a diagonal, into 1/4 inch thick pieces.

Place them onto a cookie sheet and brush both sides liberally with olive oil.

Season with garlic salt and Italian Seasoning.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Next, place fresh basil leafs on each crostini.

Get the smallest fresh mozzarella balls you can find. That way, you won't have to worry about slicing them. I got these super tiny ones that were about the size of mini marshmallows!

Three of them fit perfectly on one crostini. But before you pop them back into the oven again, start on the ratatouille topping. We want to melt the cheese at the last minute, when the topping is ready to go. So just set them aside for now.

To prepare for the ratatouille, you'll need to slice the zucchini and eggplant into thin rounds. Try to get a skinny eggplant like the one pictured above in the ingredient photo. It's called a "Chinese eggplant," and you can usually get it at health food stores like Whole Foods, or Asian food markets like Uwajimaya. If you can't find one in your area, you can use a regular one and slice them into pieces that will fit onto your crostini. I chose the skinny type because it's easy to slice and will fit automatically onto your crostini when chopped into rounds. Same goes for the zucchini- you want something small and thin.

You'll also need to dice an onion and the sweet anise/fennel. Don't confuse the fennel with what you would find in a jar in the spice aisle. Those are dried fennel seeds and not what we're looking for. We want the fresh kind.. it's a bulb, with green "hairs" sticking out of it. You want to trim the greens off and dice the bulb itself. (See ingredient photo above; it's the funny looking thing in the bowl, above the tomato.) You can find it at practically any grocery store, you just have to ask someone. It's usually stuck in an obscure corner, and they will only have one or two because it's not a popular vegetable. Fresh fennel is super fragrant and will contribute a fantastic layer of flavor to the dish. Don't worry if you smell it and think "ew!" I really dislike the smell of fresh fennel, too. But once it's in the dish, it does so much for the overall flavor of the dish, and you won't be able to taste the smell, if that makes sense. =)

You'll also need to mince some garlic and dice the tomato. (Please disregard the fact that the picture above is showing chopped garlic, when the recipe calls for minced. lol.) Make sure to scoop all the seeds out of the tomato, or else you'll get a super liquidy topping that will turn your crostini to mush.

Start by heating up 2 tbsp of olive oil on medium-high heat. It's important that you wait for the oil to be hot before starting. You can check by hovering your hand about 4-5 inches over the pan. If you feel the heat on your hand, then the oil is good to go. lol. Very unscientific, but it works. Ok, so drop half of the chopped garlic and 1/2 tbsp of tomato paste into the hot oil. Immediately start stirring it rapidly, breaking up the tomato paste as well as you can. You want the flavors of the garlic and the tomato to come out during this process. Wait until the garlic is starting to slightly brown- but don't burn it! This process will happen super fast- like 30 seconds, because your oil is hot. Once your garlic is starting to brown slightly, pour in the chopped zucchini, and start tossing immediately. Cook the zucchini for about one minute, and then add in the eggplant.

The eggplant will soak up all the moisture in your pan, making the veggies dry and easily burnable. You can rectify this by adding 1 tbsp of olive oil right after adding the eggplant. Tossing the veggies periodically, let the mixture cook for about 3-4 minutes, until the veggies have become fully cooked through (they will look kinda wilted).

Transfer the veggies immediately to a plate so that it doesn't continue to cook.

Now, start of the other part of the ratatouille. The first step is the same: heat up olive oil until it's hot, and then dump in the rest of the garlic, but with anchovy paste this time. Stirring rapidly, cook until the garlic starts to brown slightly, then immediately add the onion, garlic salt, and fennel.

I wrote this in an earlier post, where I did Bruschetta Crostini, regarding anchovy paste:

"Ok, at this point I'd like to digress for a second to speak to all you Anchovy Haters out there. lol. I know you are out there because I used to be one too. When researching recipes, I would always skip the ones that called for anchovy or anchovy paste. It's just plain disgusting. And the smell is terrible. However, I decided to be brave one day out of the blue and give it a shot. Mainly because one of my favorite chefs, Tyler Florence, called for it in one of his dishes. And it was a recipe that I was unwilling to pass up. To my utter surprise, it didn't taste like how it smells! In fact, you don't notice it at all...but it gives the dish something extra. It makes it super savory and gives it a deep, rich taste. Not like smelly fish at all. So I implore all you Anchovy Haters out there to give it a shot! You will be reformed, like me."

You want to cook the onion and fennel mixture for about 8-9 minutes, tossing periodically. When it's starting to caramelize and brown, toss in the tomatoes.

The tomatoes will cook fast. So you'll only need them in the pan for about 1-2 minutes. You don't want to over-cook them. Once they start to darken in color a bit, the veggies are done. Immediately transfer to a bowl, so that they don't continue to cook.

While you were finishing up the veggies, pop your crostini back into the 425 degree oven for about 5 minutes, just to melt the cheese.

Once everything is ready to go, place your crostini onto a serving platter and create a little assembly line: (1) the crostini (2) the eggplant/zucchini mixture and (3) the onion/fennel/tomato mixture.

First, top the crostini with alternating slices of zucchini and eggplant.

Then scoop small spoonfuls of the onion/fennel/tomato mixture on top. Serve immediately.

Aren't they gorgeous?? All the beautiful colors make it a delightful party appetizer!

Hubby and I absolutely loved these. They were so delicious and filling! We ate the entire batch and nothing else for lunch on Sunday. =)

It's a great way to get your picky hubby or kids to eat their veggies! Even people who hate eggplant/zucchini/anchovy will love this dish. It's funny that a lot of weird things go into this dish but they miraculously create something super delicious. I don't particularly love any of the individual ingredients. In fact, I detest a few of them (fennel, anchovy, etc), but it just amazes me that somehow this dish turns out amazingly delicious every single time! Give this recipe a try, especially if you dislike all or some of the ingredients. I grantee that it'll become a staple at your house too! =)

Judy's Ratatouille Crostini
For the recipe, click HERE


  1. I'm dying here... how can you post such delicious pics before I've had a chance to eat breakfast!!!

  2. Oh man...Judy, were you hosting a large garden party there?! I love these crostini, they are beyond delicious!

  3. hehe yeah, they were pretty damn good! My hubby and I ate the entire batch for lunch. lol. no party needed to make these, even though they would be a great appetizer. =)

  4. I love anchovy, but hate fennel, licorice, etc. Not too long ago I excitedly brought fennel home for the first time- what a mistake. I was licking the walls to get the taste out. Are you sure you can't taste any licorice in this? I am just so wary of it :)

  5. Courtney- i really detest the licorice taste too, but i find that i really don't mind it in this dish. maybe because there are so many other flavors all mixed together. if you are super sensitive to the flavor, maybe you can add a little bit of the fennel, or none at all. although, i'm not sure how that will affect the overall taste of the dish. if you end up trying it, let me know how you liked it!


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