I will preface this column by stating unequivocally that I will not knowingly choose to live in the same house with free-range rodents. Trust me on this. I see differences in the Guinea pigs my grandchildren keep as pets versus mice (and their cousins, the rats).
As far as I’m concerned, field mice are welcome to share my part of the earth with me and mine. I don’t mind seeing one out and about where he (or she) belongs — namely, in a field (hence, the name ‘field mice’), or scampering along the golf course close to our house. As far as that’s concerned, they can share our yard — maybe they like flowers, too.
The part of my space where they are definitely unwelcome is inside my house. Don’t misunderstand cartoon mice are cute (think ‘Jerry’ of Tom and Jerry fame). I watched and greatly enjoyed the movie “Ratatouille” that featured Remy the Rat cooking up tasty gourmet treats in a restaurant kitchen in Paris.
The critter that caught my eye at 4:30 in the morning one day last week was no cartoon. If he had big eyes and an appealing little face, and was wearing a tiny chef’s hat, I wouldn’t know. That was not the end I saw as he scurried along a baseboard in my kitchen and disappeared under a radiator enclosure.
Our house is around 100 years old. Due to differences in construction methods, building materials, and settling over time, it has some nooks and crannies that aren’t found in most newer homes. Mice can wiggle through spaces the size of a nickel, searching for shelter, food, warmth, safety and who knows what else. Thus, they can share our space in a way that’s too close for (our) comfort. I didn’t think we had a concern — “out of sight, out of mind.” Apparently I was wrong.
If anyone within range of this column has some humane ideas for us to help get rid of our unwanted little house guest and his family, we’d welcome them. Until I have another alternative — “Call the exterminator!”
In honor of Remy, star of the hit movie “Ratatouille,” what better summer recipe to come up with than Ratatouille!
2 large eggplants, ends trimmed, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 large zucchini, scrubbed and cut into 1 inch cubes
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, chopped coarsely
1 medium clove of garlic, crushed
3 medium very ripe tomatoes cored, peeled, in 2 inch cubes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Ground black pepper to taste
Place the eggplant in a large colander set over a large bowl. Sprinkle the eggplant with 2 teaspoons salt and toss to distribute the salt evenly. Let the eggplant stand for at least one hour and up to 3 hours. Rinse the eggplant well under running water to remove the salt and spread it in an even layer on a triple thickness of paper towels. Cover with another triple thickness of paper towels. Press firmly on the eggplant until it is dry and feels firm and compressed.
Adjust one oven rack to the upper-middle position and the second rack to the lower-middle position and heat the oven to 500 degrees. Line two rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil.
Toss the eggplant, zucchini and 2 tablespoons of the oil together in a large bowl. Divide the vegetables evenly between the prepared baking sheets, spreading them in a single layer on each sheet. Sprinkle with salt to taste and roast, stirring every 10 minutes until well browned and tender, 30 to 40 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom halfway through the roasting time. Set the roasted eggplant and zucchini aside.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium heat until almost smoking. Add the onion, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened and golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes and cook until they release their juices and begin to break down, about 5 minutes.
Add the roasted eggplant and zucchini, stirring gently but thoroughly to combine. Cook until just heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the parsley, basil, and thyme and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot or warm.
Ratatouille can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days.
Serves four to six.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.