Ratatouille Stuffed Cheesy Bread Boats
Now this is one simple, amazing little vegetarian appetizer that even a meat eater can get behind!
If you aren’t familiar with ratatouille (I hope at least you’ve seen the movie!!!!), it is a rustic little dish originating from the region of Provence, in France. The classic preparation for ratatouille is quite labor intensive in that you saute each vegetable separately before combining and stewing until smooth in consistency. Well, that sounded like a lot of work to me, and it’s the middle of winter, and tomatoes, zucchini, and eggplant and not exactly in top form. What’s a girl to do to really amp up the flavor?? WE ROAST BABY!!
Usually found in the summertime, when vegetables are at their peak, classic ratatouille is the way to go. But wintertime equals flavorless tomatoes (they are nasty), so a different approach is necessary.
America’s Test Kitchen…I LOVE YOU!!!
Enter, America’s Test Kitchen…and their brilliant recipe for roasted ratatouille. America’s Test Kitchen is like my all time FAVE!! They ALWAYS go the extra step in everything they develop. They have a whole staff of recipe developers that cook and bake and taste test until every recipe is perfect. That is a lot of work!!! I am happy to swoop in and get all their tips and tricks without all the effort..lol. You will hear me talk about them all the time as this blog progresses, and I will share my favorites with you. You can get their recipes online, but you have to pay a monthly membership, which I’ve gladly done for years. There are cooking videos, recipes, and loads of advice on the best tools to buy for your kitchen. They talk about the science behind why recipes work and don’t work and you learn SO MUCH!!
I own many of their cookbooks, but one of my favorite (because it has like…EVERYTHING!) is their third edition Family Cookbook. Inside the pages of this goldmine of recipes, I discovered this here ratatouille recipe (under the vegetable section, page 167). I used it to create these amazing little French bread boats!
The ratatouille (eggplant, canned tomatoes, and zucchini) get tossed with lots of fresh, pungent garlic, a healthy dose of olive oil, a little bit of thyme, salt and pepper.
It is then roasted for 1 hour and the only hands on time is a quick stir halfway through. The vegetables caramelize a bit during that hour, and are thereafter tossed in some red wine vinegar to add a punch of flavor. Then…bring on the cheese!!
After hollowing our our French bread, we stuff the roasted ratatouille to the brim, and then smooth on a fat old layer of this super tangy lemon feta spread. If you’ve never had tomatoes with lemon before, you’re in for a treat!!
Lemon zest stirred into tomato sauce adds a nice twist, a tip I learned years ago over here at Heidi Swanson’s blog, 101 Cookbooks.
You can hollow out French bread and stuff it with all kinds of good stuff. I’ve come across many over at Pinterest that got me drooling really quick. The one I’m most excited to try comes from the blog Carlsbad Cravings, and it’s a Buffalo Chicken dip stuffed French bread….yeah man!!! Check it out if you have some time. I just came across her blog and it’s pretty darn inspiring.
On to the food though..right? After being stuffed, the French bread bakes about 25 minutes until crisped up and ooey gooey! A little sprinkle of chives, maybe a bit of freshly grated parmesan, and you’re all set!! This loaf makes a great appetizer, but it is so loaded you will definitely need a plate to catch all your tasty little bits! When you can’t afford to buy a boat…make a boat…am I right? Enjoy!!!
- 1 Eggplant (1lb) peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
- 2 Medium Zucchini, cut into 1/2 cubes
- 1 red onion, halved and sliced 1/4 inch thick
- 1 (28oz) can of diced tomatoes, drained with 1/3 cup juice reserved
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 5 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
- 1 tsp minced fresh thyme or 1/4 tsp dried
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- 1 1/2 Tbsp red wine vinegar (I used more, to taste)
- 8 oz softened cream cheese
- 6 oz feta, crumbled
- juice of 1 lemon
- zest of same lemon
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp garlic salt
- cracked pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup chives, chopped
- 1 loaf of French bread, hollowed out
- Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 375 degrees.
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the cream cheese, feta, lemon juice, sour cream, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and garlic salt. Pulse to mix. Stir in lemon zest and chives. Taste and adjust to your taste. Set aside to let flavors blend.
- Combine the eggplant, zucchini, onion, tomatoes with reserved juice, oil, garlic, thyme, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and mix well. Spread the mixture into a 9x13 inch baking dish. Roast until the vegetables have softened and are browned in spots, about 1 hour, stirring thoroughly halfway through the cooking time. Once out of the oven, sprinkle the red wine vinegar over the roasted vegetables and toss. Add more vinegar to taste if you want...I did!
- Lower oven temp to 350 degrees.
- Place hollowed out bread on a parchment lined baking sheet. Place baking rack in middle position. Stuff the French bread to the brim with the roasted ratatouille. Layer some of your feta mixture on top of the ratatouille, sprinkle with Parmesan and bake 20-25 minutes.
- Remove from oven and allow it to rest for 3-5 minutes before cutting into thick slices.
- Top with chopped chives and enjoy!
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