Monday, June 27, 2011

Ratatouille

Whenever I make ratatouille at home there never seems to be enough of it to go around.  I always make a big batch for us to eat, because I love having leftovers for work lunches or as a filling for omelets.  There is no one formula or one absolute-best recipe for ratatouille (pronounced RAT-AT-OO-EE).  If you've seen the movie by the same name, then you know that the recipe made by the adorable chef rat Remy, was the work of world-renowned chef, Thomas Keller--he was the food consultant & stylist for the animated movie.  Keller's version is more of a tian (a casserole) that uses paper thin slices of vegetables and gets baked in the oven au gratin.  The one I like to make is more country-style, therefore a bit more forgiving and casual.  Not only is it very good, but it's one of my favorite ways to eat these vegetables.     


The Ingredients

  •  1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1" pieces
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 6 baby Italian eggplants, cut into 1" chunks
  • 3 large zucchini (1 1/2 lbs.), cut in half lengthwise & sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
  • One 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes, crushed with your hands
  • 4 sprigs flat leaf Italian parsley
  • salt & pepper

Note: any other type of eggplant can be used.  If you happen to use the more readily available, larger ones, peel them. 


In a large pan or Dutch oven, heat one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over a medium flame.  Add your onions and bell pepper and saute until softened, about 4 minutes.  Salt & pepper to taste, then add your dried thyme & basil, stir well.  Add your garlic and saute for 2 minutes more.

 
Add your chopped eggplant and zucchini and saute this for another 3 minutes.  Salt & pepper again.  Make sure you give everything a good toss, so that nothing sticks or starts to burn.  


Add your crushed tomatoes carefully.  Give everything a good stir and add a bit more salt & pepper.

 
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Mix everything thoroughly & bring it up to a good simmer.  As soon as you do, cover with the lid and lower your heat to medium low.  Let this simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring 2-3 times as it cooks.  Check for doneness and make sure everything is fork tender; you may need to add several minutes to this.  This will all depend on the freshness of your vegetables & how thick you actually cut them.  Taste for seasoning & add more salt and pepper if it needs it.

Yield: At least 6 servings.


The stew is done and every vegetable is still intact.  Although it's stewy, I haven't let the entire dish turn into mush.  I've had ratatouilles that were almost complete purees, but I've never cared for those versions. 

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Right before serving, sprinkle the entire dish with your minced parsley.


I like to serve it in a pasta bowl with a generously sized spoon. 



This does make a good side dish to grilled chicken, duck breasts or even baby lamb chops.  If you're a vegetarian or even a vegan (I know plenty of people who are), this can certainly become a main course when accompanied with a nice helping of rice, quinoa or even as a topping on pasta (I love it with penne).  Treat yourself, your friends & family members to some of my ratatouille this summer.  Even if you find it difficult to pronounce, you're going to find it a very easy & Good Thing to eat.  Enjoy!

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