White linen curtains dressed the tall French windows. I watched as the early morning breeze lifted the ends of the opaque sheets, as if leading them in a slow dance welcoming the beautiful morning. Inevitably it brought with it the smell of fresh grass and buttery croissants. Each morning, my dad would hurry down the narrow winding stairs from our apartment and across the main street where the local bakery was. We frequented the bakery so often that our friendly baker would slip in an extra croissant as a token of friendship. We could never quite understand his rich accent and beautiful French but a small act of kindness is always a universal sign of gratitude.
From our Juliet Balcony, all three of us would watch him walk home armed with brown papers stuffed full of freshly baked croissants and french bread.
“Girls come help set the table for breakfast!” my mum would call out.
Before she could say anything else, Zoe, Raena and I would dash to door to welcome my dad with a large bear hug and also sneakily try to grab a small bite of the delicious croissant. He winked at me and tore off a piece for himself to eat. It was simply too delicious to wait until it got to the breakfast table. I remember feeling my eyes widen as I saw the rustic wooden dining table laid with scrambled eggs, creamy milk, cereal, grapes, strawberries, savory herb cheese, wild blueberry jam, butter and of course the star of the meal – crossiants. It was a feast for a King.
Breakfast was always my favorite. But coming to France made me love it even more – buttery croissants and fresh cheese. Somehow everything in France just tastes better – the milk is thicker, the bread is crustier and the chocolate is richer. Lets be honest, I was living the dream.
The longer hours of daylight made it somewhat deceiving that we still had hours to play and explore, but before we knew it our grumbling stomachs would eventually lead us home. Unlike breakfast, dinner was more modest. Instead of going out to eat we decided for something much simpler and less demanding: a home-cooked meal made by my dad -the best cook in our family. Not surprisingly he always ended up as the designated chef during our family vacations. I remember eagerly watching my dad slip into the small kitchen to whip up a delicious fare. It was a rare sight to see him in an apron instead of his usual white-collared shirt and tie. I relished seeing that side of my dad. Tonight, Aglio Olio Mushroom Pasta was on the menu. Button, chestnut, oyster mushrooms sautéed with a little dab of french butter, olive oil, herbs, lots of garlic, seasoned with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Every single strand of spaghetti would be coated in a finger-licking scented, herby butter sauce. All of us would run to the dinner table unapologetically competing to grab the first bowl of pasta.
To this day, it is one of the best pastas I have ever eaten.
I have never been able to recreate that good of a pasta for dinner like my dad did. Even now, I can still smell and taste the delicious spaghetti on the tips of my tongue almost like it was yesterday. To celebrate and reminisce our time together in France, Zoe and I decided to make a French-inspired pasta dinner – ratatouille served over pasta. It may not be my dad’s mushroom aglio olio but it is definitely a gorgeous pasta in its own right. No doubt, it would be a meal that reminds me of my family and of Paris. There is something spectacular about the addition of the miso that makes this dish extra special.
Once again my mind was drifting back to the past and to the people I love. This is why I love cooking so much, because it reminds me of home and reminds me of what matters most. As we were chopping up the colorful vegetables and curly parsley, I imagined my dad cooking again – chopping, sautéing, cooking in that small Parisian kitchen years ago. I miss my family and I miss those simple moments. We had many wonderful memories together in France and my favorite has always been the moments where we were able to spend cooking together. It was a great way to spend time with those you love.
I am sure that my dad would have approved of this scrumptious pasta dish.
Adapted from NoRecipes
- 4 ounces GF Brown Rice Spaghetti (or any pasta of your choice)
- 1/2 small eggplant, cut into 1/2″ cubes
- 1 can tomatoes (we prefer the no salt added, fire-roasted)
- 1/4 small butternut squash, cut into 1/4″ cubes
- 1/4 large onion, diced
- 1.5 tbsp miso paste
- 1/2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp honey/agave nectar/maple syrup
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- Salt and Pepper
- Garnish: Fresh Parsley
How to Make:
- Preheat your oven to 450F.
- Toss eggplant, squash and onion in a baking tray. Season generously with salt and pepper.
- Bake for another 5-10 minutes until the vegetables and caramelized and soft.
- Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Cook your pasta until just al dente (follow instructions at the back of the package). Reserve at 2 cups of pasta water aside.
- Drain and run under cold water to prevent the pasta sticking together. Set aside.
- When your vegetables are done, add in canned tomatoes, miso, tomato paste, garlic, honey in a small pot. (If there isn’t enough liquid, you may add in some of your pasta water). Heat the sauce through over low heat.
- In a bowl, toss your pasta, warm sauce and roasted vegetables together. Add more pasta water if your sauce has cooled and thickened, but only 1 -2 tbsp at a time.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with fresh parsley.
How to Serve:
Traditional Method: Ratatouille or Ratatouille niçoise is 18th century French provencal vegetable stew. It comes from the root word meaning “stir up”. The modern ratatouille now consists of garlic, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, herbs Since the 2007 Pixar Movie Ratatouille, this dish has become infamous and well loved.
Our Method: Our version of ratatouille is inspired by the flavors of Japanese. The addition of miso pasta gives this dish an unusual savory depth of flavor despite its simplicity. We also added in pumpkin to honor the autumn season, which can easily be substituted in with other ingredients.
Zoe & Mia
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