We ended the evening with the most delicious meal I have ever made. And I mean ever. Seriously. I know it would be mean to just tell you this delicious news and leave you hanging, so I will be shooting and posting it in the next few weeks (lucky you)! This meal honestly belongs in an expensive five star restaurant. And I am certainly glad that we weren’t sitting in one of those, paying $100+ a head on Valentine’s night, when I came up with something to rival just about everything on their fancy prix fixe menus.

Remember that meal I mentioned making my husband for our Valentines Day dinner? That one I raved about in The HeartBeet Red Velvet Smoothie post? Well you don't have to wait any longer, because this is it.

Loosely inspired by a dish I had at a local restaurant years ago and have never forgotten, this is healthy, gourmet, comfort food at it's height. With delicious vegetables and just the right amount of heat, the Spiced Ratatouille forms the most perfect, saucy base to temper the herb-y sweetness and crunch of the Quinoa Sweet Potato Cakes. While a dollop of decadent Feta-Thyme yogurt adds just the right amount of creaminess and saltiness to complete the dish.

Honestly, I couldn't even believe this meal had come out of my own tiny apartment kitchen. It will surely impress anyone you make it for, because every mouthful takes you on a journey to food heaven. Just close your eyes, and watch the walls of your home fall away with every bite...

It is sunset, and you are outdoors. Seated under softly glowing cafe lights, with candles flickering on all the restaurant tables. Surrounding you are the golden, rolling hills of Napa Valley. The soft murmur of other diners, and the strains of a live jazz band are floating through the warm summer evening air. You look across the table and smile at your lover, while reaching for their hand...

Notes: If you are vegan simply omit the Feta-Thyme Spread, or come up with your own version as everything else is vegan already. If you come up with a version you like, I'd love to hear about and try it!

Photography for this beautifully photo-heavy post in collaboration with Julio-Adrian Photography

Makes enough for 4

Ratatouille

1/4 cup olive oil

1 onion, diced

1tsp garlic, diced

2 red bell peppers, diced

2 tbsp smoked paprika (optional)

4-5 zucchini, cut into rounds

4-5 yellow squash, cut into rounds

2 (14 oz) cans diced fire-roasted tomatoes with green chilies (I found these at Trader Joe's)

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup water

Quinoa Cakes

2 cups baked sweet potato, skins removed & mashed

(approximately 2 medium sweet potatoes)

2 cups cooked quinoa

1+ tbsp finely chopped fresh thyme

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

freshly ground salt & pepper to taste

Coconut oil

(for frying)

Feta-Thyme Yogurt

1 cup sheep's milk feta, chopped

1/4 cup greek yogurt

salt & pepper to taste

splash of olive oil

1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves

Garnish

Thyme sprigs

olive oil

Begin by preparing the sweet potatoes, and cooking the quinoa.

There are two possible methods of preparing the sweet potatoes. I usually opt for the second method (because I'm not patient enough to wait the extra hour).

  1. Slice a cross into the top of each sweet potato, and bake at 400°F until soft (when a paring knife can slice through it with zero resistance), about 1 hour. Set aside and allow to cool completely. 
  2. Slice a cross into the top of the sweet potatoes. Microwave for about 7 and a half minutes on high (the length of time depends on your microwave's power). Remove from microwave, and allow to cool completely.

While the quinoa and sweet potatoes are cooking, make the ratatouille. Heat oil in large skillet. Add onion, garlic and bell pepper; sauté 10 minutes. Add paprika, zucchini and yellow squash; sauté 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt and water. Allow the ratatouille to simmer for 30 minutes.

Remove skins from sweet potatoes, place in large mixing bowl, and mash with a fork to remove all chunks. Add the quinoa, fresh thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt (more to taste), and freshly cracked pepper (to taste) and stir until well combined.

Form the quinoa and sweet potato mixture into 8 balls. Press and shape the balls into rounded patties.

Using a fork, mix together all the ingredients for the feta-thyme spread in a small bowl. 

Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Melt a large knob of coconut oil in the skillet, enough to throughly and substantially coat the bottom of the pan (you really do not want these to stick, so feel free to add more coconut oil during the frying process if the pan begins to look dry). Fry the patties for about 5 minutes on each side, until brown and crisp. Remove from pan and lay on a flat, paper towel covered surface to drain.

Divide the ratatouille amongst four bowls. Place two quinoa cakes atop each other in each bowl. Top with a dollop of the feta-thyme spread. Finish with a sprig of thyme, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve immediately, while warm. Enjoy!

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