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.
- 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.
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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