One of the few pre-packaged baby foods my little one eats on a consistent basis is Happy Family’s organic Amaranth Ratatouille. It’s slightly textured with grains of quinoa and filled with yummy vegetables. I decided to make something similar at home and it tastes even better than the one in the store. This homemade baby food quinoa ratatouille is filled with zucchini, eggplant, sweet peppers, squash and tomato, with the addition of quinoa.
If you haven’t jumped on the quinoa train yet, making it for your baby is a good start. It cooks quickly and is full of protein, fiber, iron, antioxidants and other good-for-you stuff. The tiny seed is small enough for baby to eat, which is why you find it in many of my recipes, and in the store brands as well. Did you know The Food and Agriculture Organization of the Nations named 2013 “The International Year of the Quinoa?” I just found that out.
Back to the ratatouille. This is the same dish featured in the movie by the same name, and the baby food version is yummy. I tried some, my husband tried some. Grandma would have eaten the whole bowl if we let her. It’s really flavorful and healthy too!
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme, eggplant, sweet pepper, zucchini, tomato, tomato paste, quinoa and vegetable broth. Bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until the quinoa has "sprouted" and the vegetables are tender. Add more broth if necessary during cooking.
Remove from the heat and stir in fresh herbs and cheese. Puree in a food processor until you reach the desired consistency, adding additional vegetable broth or water if needed.
I’ve been making an effort to cook eggplant more often. It’s one of those vegetables too often relegated to a single dish: Eggplant Parmesan.
Lately, in an effort to make eggplant my friend, I buy one every time I hit the market. The organic ones on my grocery shelf come wrapped in plastic. It helps them keep longer, and relieves me of the pressure to eat them quickly like tomatoes or spinach. This makes them friendlier, but I’m still wary of that “bitterness” people describe. Each time, I diligently salt and sweat my eggplant to remove this bitterness, but someday I just may try preparing it without.
Don’t let this extra step deter you from cooking eggplant more often. It is really easy to prepare and has a delicious texture when cooked – similar to mushrooms.
I used a jar of organic pasta sauce in this recipe to make it super easy and added fresh baby spinach to pump up the nutrition and flavor. You can also make your own sauce using canned or fresh tomatoes, just adjust the seasoning to taste.
First, cut your eggplant into large slices the long way, about 1 inch thick. Lay them on paper towels and sprinkle generously with salt on both sides. Allow to “sweat” for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rinse the salt from the eggplant and cut into chunks. In a bowl, toss the eggplant salt, pepper and a generous swig of olive oil. Arrange eggplant in a single layer on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 20 minutes.
While the eggplant is cooking, sauté onion in olive oil until soft. Add garlic and chili flakes. Add tomato sauce and season to taste.
While your sauce is simmering, bring your pasta water to a boil. Season the water with salt and cook pasta until al dente. Drain pasta and toss it while it’s still hot with the tomato sauce. Now toss in your baked eggplant, spinach and basil. Serve topped with crumbles of Parmesan cheese.