I was home for a visit to northern California back in the 1990’s, during the height of summer, and my step-mom was making ratatoullie, a French vegetable stew. Not one to eat many vegetables at the time, I reluctantly tried some, and it was a revelation. It was SO good. Nothing like vine ripened tomatoes and fresh basil to make all vegetables taste fantastic. I was sold, and have been making ratatouille in September, during the height of the warm weather vegetable glut, ever since.
The trick to making sublime ratatouille, rather than just good ratatouille, is really good tomatoes and cooking most of the vegetables separately, only combining them at the end (ala Julia Child). Generally, the order is Eggplant, Zucchini, Peppers, Onions, Tomatoes, or EZPOT (ala some random reality show episode on Food Network). Cooks Illustrated also has a ratatouille recipe where the eggplant and zucchini are roasted instead of sautéed. Play around and see what you like.
The best part of this recipe? It freezes beautifully. Portion it out into quart freezer bags, thaw in the winter, add a small can of cannelleni beans, diced red potatoes or small pasta of your choice, some chicken or veggie stock, and you have a healthy flavorful soup to help counteract all of the holiday eating. It’s also great as a pizza topping.
- ½ lb. eggplant. Note that the smaller Italian or Japanese eggplant are less bitter and do not need to be salted and drained, as is often recommended for the large globe eggplant.
- ½ lb. zucchini or other on-hand summer squash
- 2 (about 1 cup) green and/or ripe bell peppers
- ½ lb. (about 1 ½ cups) storage onions (i.e. not sweet)
- 2 cloves garlic, or more to taste
- Olive oil
- 1 lb ripe tomatoes. If you can’t get vine ripened ones, you are better off substituting a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes rather than the tasteless ones available in winter.
- 3 tbsp minced fresh parsley (or 1 ½ tbsp dried)
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil (or 1 tbsp dried)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Dice eggplant, squash, peppers and tomatoes into 1/2 to 1 inch dice. Peel and seed tomatoes if that is your preference (I personally don’t bother). Coarsely chop the onion. Mince the garlic.
Skim the bottom of a dutch oven with about 1 tbsp olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Saute the eggplant until lightly browned on all sides, 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan.
Adding more oil, saute squash until lightly browned on all sides, 3-4 minutes. Remove from pan.
Reduce heat to medium. Adding more oil, saute peppers and onions until cooked through, but not browned. Add garlic and saute briefly until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes and cook until they have released their juices and some liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. (Start with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Add more to taste).
Return eggplant and squash to pan, along with parsley and basil. (The original Julia Child recipe calls for layering the squash and eggplant with the tomato/onion/pepper mixture for a total of 5 layers. The goal is to help each vegetable retain its individual flavor. I find this too fussy. Do so if you wish. I just stir it all together). Simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes. Uncover, and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, being careful not to scorch the bottom.
Ratatouille is great served hot or cold, with a nice slice of crusty bread. This is a great pot luck dish for summer gatherings. If you want to try this recipe roasting some or all of the vegetables, simply toss veggies/whole garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast on a foil lined sheet pan in a 450 degree oven, stirring ever 10 minutes or so, until vegetables are tender. It should take about 30 minutes depending on the size of your dice. Then combine and add your fresh herbs.
Miles Away Farm Blog © 2011, where we’re miles away from summer ripened tomatoes, and could use a big dose of vegetables in our diet. I’ve been enjoying cooking for my husband for the last two weeks, and the scale is reflecting all that good food.