Wednesday, March 4, 2009


I'd been kicking around the idea of making ratatouille for a few weeks, after hearing mention of a batch of my dad's, and got the ingredients ready to go. Some leftovers got in the way and my plans were briefly waylaid, but I bit the bullet on Monday, and have been generously rewarded with 2 lunches and a dinner, and am not yet bored.

Ratatouille is quite easy. The only stumbling block is the seasoning: because everything reduces so much, it is better to hold off on the heavy-duty seasoning until the ratatouille is almost ready. Otherwise, if you salt aggressively in the beginning, you could end up with the food equivalent of the Dead Sea. 

Also, this is really a "use what you want/have" kind of recipe, and therefore my ingredient list is going to be not particularly specific, especially when it comes to seasoning. The eggplant, I would say, is critical to it being a "true" ratatouille, but if you hate eggplant just leave it out and stew away with more agreeable vegetables. 

Ratatouille (makes about 8 very hearty servings):
1 normal-sized eggplant (or 2/3 freakishly-large eggplant), chopped into .5- to 1-inch cubes
2 zucchini squash, chopped into chunks
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper, seeds and stems removed, chopped
1 can whole plum tomatoes
1 red onion, chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, sliced
Olive oil
Fresh thyme
Dried oregano
Smoked paprika
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper

You will also need a certain amount of wet ingredient to cover the vegetables. I used a combination of vegetable stock, water, and some leftover Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Sauce that I wanted to use up. Plain water would be fine as well, or a good vegetable stock - whatever you prefer. 

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees and preparing your vegetables. Select an oven-safe pot or casserole dish, and fill with about 4 tablespoons olive oil. Then add the eggplant and toss in with the olive oil, allowing it to soak in well. Add the other vegetables in whatever order you please.

Open the can of tomatoes and crush each tomato with your hand before adding it to the pot. Then add the juice from the can, along with whatever other liquids you have chosen, only filling to cover (press the vegetables down and really get them compact to determine your liquid needs). Add about a tsp. each of salt, pepper, paprika, fresh thyme, and dried oregano, keeping in mind that you will be adding additional seasonings to taste.

Put your pot in the oven uncovered, and cook until the vegetables have really broken down and almost all of the liquid has evaporated. Taste some of the remaining liquid, and season accordingly. 

This is delicious on its own, with some crusty dipping bread, or over rice. I would also recommend some polenta cakes (or plain polenta, if you're into it) as a vehicle for ratatouille.

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