Ratatouille: a cooked melange of summer vegetables that originated in Nice and is popular, in various versions, throughout the Mediterranean countries.
As with most country classics, there are as many recipes as there are cooks.
Everyone seems to agree on most of the ingredients:
- Aubergine (eggplant)
- Bell peppers, any color
- Courgette (zucchini)
- Fresh Basil
No one seems to agree on the proportions.
Some will add laurel (bay leaves), thyme, a splash of vinegar.
Some use canola oil; some olive oil.
Some will add a dab of tomato paste.
I have six French cook books.
I found six different recipes and methods of preparation.
One said to braise all of the ingredients separately, for varying lengths of time, and to combine, along with the fresh basil, a mere seconds before serving.
One said to throw everything together in a big pan and bake in a slow oven, undisturbed, for four or five hours.
One said to sauté everything and then simmer for 20 minutes.
One said to sauté some things but not others, and to simmer the whole lot for 1 hour undisturbed followed by 2 hours stirring every 10 minutes.
I apologize for not having photos of all the gorgeous vegetables that went in to this, but by the time I actually got to the kitchen I was so confused I couldn’t tell the aubergine from the tomato.
Heart of the Matter is having a Picnic and I wanted to bring Ratatouille.
Living in France and all, it just seemed like the thing to do.
One of the best things about ratatouille is, while it is good hot, on the day you make it, it is better the next day… And the day after that.
(Like fine wine and smart women, it improves with age.)
Good hot, but some would argue, better warm or at room temperature.
It can be served on it’s own as a first course or side dish, with couscous or rice for a vegetarian main course, or have some grilled shrimp or sausages added to it for a non-vegetarian main course.
It’s chock-a-block with fresh summer vegetables (don’t bother making it if you don’t have the good fresh stuff).
It does have rather a lot of oil in the recipe – BUT, it’s heart-healthy olive oil and this recipe will easily make 4 main courses or 8 side dish. Or, in our case (being only two) 4 meals of various versions.
Ratatouille is one of those dishes that simply has to be made large – It’s worth it.
This is my adaptation of all the versions and methods…. And I made the recipe as small as I could ;-))
1 small – medium aubergine (eggplant), about 8oz, 250gr
2 small – medium courgette (zucchini), about 14oz, 400gr
1 1/2 large bell peppers, I used 1 green and 1/2 yellow
2 large onions
4 cloves of garlic
5 medium tomatoes
5 laurel (bay) leaves
2 tbs chopped fresh thyme
big handful of fresh basil leaves
4 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper optional
Roughly chop the onions and peppers. Mince the garlic. Cube the aubergine. Slice the courgette in half the long way, then in 1/4″ slices. Peel and roughly chop the tomato.
Heat 1 tbs oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and sauté until starting to brown. Add garlic and sauté for a minute or two longer. Put onions and garlic (and cooking oil) into a large pot.
Put the pot (with the onions) on low heat.
Return the skillet to heat and add 1 tbs oil. Add peppers and sauté until starting to brown and blister. Put peppers on top of onions.
Return the skillet to heat and add 1 tbs oil. Add courgette and sauté until starting to brown and soften. Put courgette on top of peppers.
Return the skillet to heat and add 1 tbs oil. Add aubergine and sauté until starting to brown on all sides. Put aubergine on top of courgette.
Put laurel and thyme on top of aubergine. Put tomatoes on top of herbs.
At this point you can add a bit of salt and pepper if you like.
Give it a gentle stir or two, cover and increase heat slightly until you hear it simmering. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes. Stir it every once in awhile. When ready to serve, remove from heat, tear the basil leaves and stir in.
It took me about 35 minutes to do the chopping and sauteing; everything was tender and well done in 30 minutes but I let it simmer for 45.
Joanna, of Joanna’s Food will have the Picnic Round-up around the 29th of August. Be sure to visit for lots of heart-healthy foods!