I’ll admit I’ve had a bit of an anti-ratatouille prejudice. Given that until recently I couldn’t have told you what went into the dish, my aversion was inexplicable and unreasonable, but such is the way with historically finicky eaters like me. It wasn’t the movie that changed my mind, as I’ve yet to see it. Rather, with the slew of beautifully described and photographed recipes flying around the blogosphere, I’d have a hard time calling myself a vegetable lover if I didn’t at least give it a try myself.
Wildly divergent in presentation and technique, among the recipes I perused, what defined a ratatouille seemed to be the inclusion of eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes. Red peppers were optional, herbs were to one’s liking, and the dish could be served alone or over pasta, rice, or couscous. Figuring that the dish wasn’t really my speed anyway, I was feeling a bit more adventurous than usual, and decided , uncharacteristically, to just use the recipes I’d seen as inspiration and play it by ear. (And yes, you creative types, of whom I am eternally jealous and who invent and improvise at every meal, please feel free to laugh.)
Turns out that making ratatouille is an inexact science- another sprinkle of herbes de provence or a few extra minutes on the stove don’t hurt a bit. And to my great surprise, wonder of wonders, it turns out that I like ratatouille after all. Go figure. With soft, warm veggies coated in a mild tomato and herb sauce, a bed of rice underneath, and a sprinkling of salty feta on top, Dylan and I agreed that this ratatouille was delicious and was a perfect use of summer vegetables. Run out to your local farmer’s market and take advantage of the last days of summer if you haven’t yet tried a ratatouille this year.
Ratatouille (serves 4)
Ingredients: (to be used as broad guidelines, feel free to improvise)
2-3 zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
6 tomatoes, chopped medium
2-3 small eggplants, chopped in 1/2-inch pieces (I used Japanese, so as not to deal with salting them)
6 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tbsp fresh parsley
Herbes de Provence, to taste
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil (plus more for sauteing veggies)
salt and pepper to taste
sprinkle of crumbled feta or goat cheese
other optional herbs and spices: red pepper flakes, dried oregano, thyme, savory
1. Heat a splash of olive oil in a large skillet and add the zucchini and eggplant. Saute for 5 minutes, then set veggies aside.
2. Add more oil and saute garlic, pepper, and onions for 3-4 minutes, then add tomatoes and saute for 5 more minutes.
3. Add the zucchini and eggplant back to the pan as well as the olive oil, parsley, herbes de provence, sugar, and salt and pepper. Reduce to low and cook 35 minutes, or until eggplant and zucchini are melt-in-your-mouth soft. At that point, add fresh chopped basil, if you like, and season with additional salt and pepper as needed. Cook 5 more minutes. Serve warm over rice, couscous, pasta, or alone, topped with feta or goat cheese.