Ratatouille emerges out of the perfect storm of vegetables. As least in my house. It’s never something I plan on making, it’s a dish that makes itself evident based on the particular combination of vegetables. When I suddenly realize that I’ve got squash, onions, peppers, tomatoes, and lastly an eggplant, I know it’s time.
Last month I had the pleasure of assisting 4 (may I say “rock star”..?) chefs at a charity dinner held at Jamison Lamb Farm. One of the dishes on the menu was a ratatouille. While we were chatting and cooking in the kitchen, one of the chefs asked me “How do you make your ratatouille?” I never really thought about it before because the way I make it is the only way I make it. Start with a big pot. Add some olive oil. Add onions, garlic and pepper. Saute. Add squash and eggplant. Saute. Add tomatoes. Stew. Add herbs and seasonings. Enjoy. Very easy one-pot situation. I discovered as the conversation went on that there is certainly more than one way to look at this dish and the way I’ve been cooking it was a cheater method compared to the classic way.
The way the chef made the dish that night was by sautéing the onions and peppers together and adding tomatoes to make a sauce. (*Always* use green peppers – red peppers could be mistaken for tomatoes! Too bad I love red peppers.) He peeled the zukes and eggplants, salted them, let them sit for 30 minutes, rinsed them, dried them well, and sautéed them separately. He layered the saucy tomato mixture and the sautéed items in hotel pans and baked them in the oven. Sounds like too many dishes to wash and an unnecessary oven usage to me!
I decided to take a few tips from his version to create my own.
Start with whatever delicious veggies you have.
Peel the zucchini. Skin = bitterness.
Chop the zucchini.
Salt the zucchini generously in a strainer.
Peel the eggplant, too.
Chop the eggplant.
Core and score the tomatoes before blanching.
Lovely tomatoes dance in the boiling water!
Remove tomatoes from the water when the skins begin to separate from the flesh.
Remove the skins.
Seed the tomatoes and dice into chunks.
Get a big pot and put some heat under it.
Saute the onion.
Add the peppers.
And the garlic.
After rinsing the zucchini and eggplant, add that too.
Add the chopped tomatoes.
Ugh! I’m so hungry waiting for my ratatouille to stew. Tummy rumbles means cheese time.
Herbage added to the pot.
And you’re done!
Here’s the recipe, though I have to say, this is the recipe that I made the other night only because those were the vegetables I had. If you have a different combination, it’s all good.
3 medium zucchini, diced
1 large eggplant, diced
2 Tablespoons salt
6 small tomatoes
2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 red pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced
1 yellow pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 Tablespoon flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peel and chop zucchini and eggplant into medium chunks. Place in a colander or strainer and generously toss with salt. After 30 minutes, rinse to remove salt and drain well.
Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Core each tomato and score an “X” into the bottom of each one. Place into boiling water until peel starts to remove from flesh. Remove and allow to cool before handling. You may dunk in ice water to speed the process. Remove skin and discard. Chop tomatoes in half and remove seeds. Dice into small chunks.
In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and peppers and sauté until tender, about 5-10 minutes. Add garlic, zucchini, eggplant, and squash and sauté until tender, about 5-10 minutes. Add herbs and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer and cook until flavors are incorporated, about 15 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve hot.
Note: I know that ratatouille is SO two weeks ago, but I was determined to make this my first blog post. So, there you have it! Enjoy this dish if you still have some eggplants and tomatoes kicking around.