Once our exceptionally sweet tomatoes and peppers began to ripen, I added Ratatouille (rat-ə-TOO-ee) to my soon-to-make list. Finding a gorgeous eggplant and Italiano Largo squash at the farmers’ market, propelled me into action. I knew it was time. Vegetables that grow together go together. And Ratatouille includes many of the most abundant of late summer’s vegetables and herbs.With my first savory-sweet bite, I remembered why I love this Provençal classic.
Fast-food shopping at its healthiest
I saw a portion of a travelogue on southern France the other evening. The host was walking through a farmers’ market in Nice. I was astonished and pleased to see rows of grab-and-go baskets filled with Ratatouille vegetables. Fast-food shopping at its healthiest.
Each basket looked rather similar to this handsome Ratatouille Family portrait:
Ratatouille and I
Our relationship goes way back to my college days in Berkeley. My new friend across the hall ate Ratatouille for lunch mixed with cottage cheese almost daily. Much too weird for me to even want to try it. Eggplant and peppers and summer squash—no way.
Years later (and still in Berkeley) I discovered Julia Child and Mastering the Art of French Cooking. For a number of years her very complex Ratatouille recipe was mine, too. A bit obsessed at the time, I began judging cookbooks not by their cover but by their recipe for Ratatouille. If the author didn’t cook Ratatouille my way, they couldn’t be trusted.
- Does the recipe include basil?
- Are the vegetables large and chunky or small and evenly diced?
- Is each vegetable cooked individually?
- Do the vegetables remain identifiable or do they cook so long as to become mushy?
Today’s a new day
Even with my softening attitude, today’s less complicated recipe still meets all of my earlier criteria. Plus roasting the eggplant and peppers concentrates and intensifies their flavors. And roasting eliminates all the oil typically required to sauté eggplant, making for an even healthier Ratatouille as well.
Use more or less of each vegetable depending on what’s in your garden and/or what’s ripe and flavorful. Ratatouille travels well and tastes great at all temperatures.
Serve it as a meal on its own or as a side vegetable. Go heartier by combining Ratatouille with polenta, pasta or quinoa.
Active Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours
½ pound red and/or yellow bell peppers, halved, seeded, flattened
1 pound eggplant, unpeeled, cut into ¾-1-inch cubes (8 cups)
1 pound tomatoes, *peeled or not, ¾ -inch dice (3 cups)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, 1/3 inch dice (2 cups)
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 1/3 pounds summer squash, both yellow and green, cut into 2 inch by ½-inch wide wedges (4-5 cups)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 teaspoon Herbes de Provençe, crumbled
1/3 cup fresh basil chiffonade
- Heat the oven to 400º F.
- Place the cubed eggplant on a parchment paper lined pan. Roast until softened and starting to color, 15-20 minutes.
- Place the flattened pepper halves on a parchment paper lined pan. Roast the peppers until tender, 15-20 minutes. Cut the peppers into approximately 2 inch by 1/3-inch wide strips.
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the onion. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the sliced garlic and cook uncovered another 2-3 minutes until the onion begins to color. Transfer the onion and garlic to a small bowl and set aside.
- Using the same pan, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and place over medium high heat. Add the zucchini and cook until tender.
- Stir in the onion and garlic.
- Add the chopped tomatoes with their juices, peppers, eggplant, thyme, herbes de Provence, a large pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Gently combine the vegetables. Cover the pan. Simmer for 15 minutes, stirring once or twice.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the fresh basil. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve Ratatouille immediately or prepare it up to a day in advance and gently re-heat.
* Peel each tomato by first submerging it in a pot of boiling water for about 8 seconds until the skin loosens. Plunge the tomatoes into a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking. Peeling the tomatoes is optional.