Ratatouille


 

 

Ratatouille is a Mediterranean summer harvest made from eggplant, tomato, zucchini, onion, and bell peppers! When prepared traditionally – with each ingredient cooked separately before it is arranged in the casserole altogether – it is simply divine!

I’ve always made my own version of Ratatouille with my summer harvest vegetables – ad hoc – using my garden bounty; tomatoes, zucchini and yellow patty pan squashes, fresh basil and lemon thyme. I’d just sauté everything altogether (with eggplant and Vidalia onion)….and of course – it was delicious.

ratatouille

BUT, if you take the time to prepare this the traditional way, you will be rewarded with the most heavenly delectable feast of summer sweetness, with each vegetable maintaining its integrity, yet comingled into a surprisingly complex and fulfilling burst of flavor. Your entire home will smell of the essence of Provence…according to Julia Child, and boy is she right! This is a celebration of summer, and invites a glass of wine during the preparation and a good, slow al fresco meal with friends.

This recipe is basically how Julia Child recommends making Ratatouille. I’ve added the bay leaf and lemon thyme (you can add your own summer herbs or herbs de Provence), and added my own preparation instructions.

Bon Appétit!

This recipe serves  4 – 6 as an entree. The above picture was four times this recipe quantity!

Ingredients & cookware

  • 1 lb. eggplant
  • 1 lb. zucchini (or mixed yellow & green squash, patty pans, etc.)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 glass, porcelain or stainless steel 3 qt. mixing bowls

 

  • A 10-12” enameled skillet
  • 4 Tbs.  olive oil

 

  • ½ lb (~1 ½ cups) thinly sliced onions (Vidalia if available)
  • 2  sliced green bell peppers (or combine 1 green & 1 yellow or orange for color)
  • 2-3 Tbs. more olive oil , if necessary
  • 2 cloves mashed garlic
  • S & P to taste

 

  • 1 lb. firm, ripe, red tomatoes, peeled, cored and seeded (1 ½ cups pulp)
  • 4 -5 fresh sprigs of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • S & P

 

  •  A 2 ½ quart fireproof casserole about 2 ½ “ deep (OR your 12” heavy bottomed skillet)
  • 3 Tbs. minced parsley

 

Directions

1.       Peel the eggplant and cut into lengthwise slices – 3/8” thick, 3”long, 1” wide. Don’t sweat it, just figure out what shape you like (one that offers surface area for lightly browning), and keep it fairly regular in shape.

2.       Wash and cut zucchini in similar size to eggplant. Place vegetables separately in their own bowl, and toss with salt (1/2 tsp. each bowl). Let stand for 30 minutes. Drain and dry slices in towels.

3.       One layer at a time, saute’ the eggplant, and then the zucchini in hot olive oil for a few minutes on each side – as best as you can – to brown VERY lightly. Remove to a side dish.

4.       In the same skillet as above, cook the onions and peppers slowly in olive oil for about 10 minutes, or until tender but not browned. Stir in the garlic and season to taste.

5.       Bring a pot of water to boil, large enough for your tomatoes.

6.       SCORE an X in the top of each tomato, drop gently into boiling water for 20 seconds. Lift out with slotted spoon and place in a colander within a bowl. When cool enough to handle, place on cutting board and peel away outer skin. Core the hard center out of the tomato, and gently take out the seeds and inner jelly if you can.

7.       Slice the tomato into strips. Lay them over the onions and peppers. Season w/ S & P, and tuck fresh herbs into the tomatoes if using. Cover the skillet and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, or until tomatoes have begun to release their juice. Uncover, baste the tomatoes with the juices, raise heat and boil gently for a few minutes, until juice has mostly evaporated.

8.       Set aside 2/3rds of the tomato mixture in a bow, and spread the remainder around the bottom of the skillet. (You can transfer to your casserole dish if you want, but I kept my entire Ratatouille in my 12” cast iron skillet and it worked beautifully.) Sprinkle over it 1 Tbs of parsley. Arrange half the eggplant and zucchini on top, then half the remaining tomatoes and parsley. Put in the rest of the eggplant and zucchini, and finish with the remaining tomatoes and parsley.

9.       Cover the skillet/casserole and simmer over LOW heat for 10 minutes. Uncover, tip pan and baste with the rendered juices. Correct seasoning if necessary. Raise heat slightly and cook uncovered for 5 -15 minutes (depending on material of pan), basting several times, until juices have evaporated leaving a spoonful or two of flavored olive oil. Be careful of your heat – DO NOT LET THE VEGETABLES SCORCH IN THE BOTTOM OF THE CASSEROLE/PAN.

10.   Reheat slowly at serving time, or serve cold.

SUGGESTION:  If you are making this for the next day (flavors will heighten overnight but color will diminish a bit), I recommend refrigerating it – if possible – in the pan in which it was cooked. This way – all the magnificent layering will not be lost in storing it away.

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