"Ratatouille" is my favorite Pixar film.
The studio has other films that have hit me with greater emotional impact ("Up") or that have better action ("The Incredibles") or that are simply more iconic ("Toy Story"), and yet I find myself revisiting this one far more than any other they've made.
There's something about the low-key nature of the story that resonates. Remy (voiced to perfection by Patton Oswalt) doesn't need to save the world or rescue his friends or go on a grand adventure, he simply wants to do the thing he loves the most. In this case, be a chef.
It's certainly a tall order (read: utterly absurd) for a rat to become a chef in a human kitchen, and yet director Brad Bird manages to make this rat one of the most human characters in Pixar's library. We all want to live up to our dreams, to reach out through our passions and attain that seemingly impossible goal. This is a film about finding greatness in the most unlikely of places, and having a mind open enough to recognize potential where others see none.
If nothing else, I find this to be one of the most gorgeously animated films from Pixar. The characters are expressive and uniquely designed the way all Pixar characters are, but it's the look of Paris that Bird achieves that truly stands out. This is Paris the way we romantically dream of it being, and it's beautifully realized here.
Top it all off with one of composer Michael Giacchino's most understated scores and you've got something that's truly special.
1 medium or 2 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more to taste
2 medium onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice
4 to 6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 bunch of basil, tied in a bouquet with kitchen twine + 6 basil leaves, chopped
pinch of dried chile flakes
2 sweet peppers, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 medium summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 ripe medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
Salt, to taste
Toss the eggplant cubes with a teaspoon or so of salt. Set the cubes in a colander to drain for about 20 minutes. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Pat the eggplant dry, add to the pan, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden. Add a bit more oil if the eggplant absorbs all the oil and sticks to the bottom of the pan. Remove the eggplant when done and set aside. In the same pot, pour in 2 more tablespoons olive oil. Add onions and cook for about 7 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, basil bouquet, dried chile flakes, and a bit more salt. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, then stir in peppers. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in summer squash.
Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in tomatoes. Cook for 10 minutes longer, then stir in eggplant and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until all the vegetables are soft. Remove the bouquet of basil, pressing on it to extract all its flavors, and adjust the seasoning with salt. Stir in the chopped basil leaves and more extra virgin olive oil, to taste. Serve warm or cold. Serves 6 to 8
— Recipe by Alice Waters,