Sometimes we think ratatouille is French for “quick summer vegetable hash”. (It isn’t, but that pretty much describes it). Typical of rustic French cooking, ratatouille combines a number of somewhat basic ingredients and makes them into more than the sum of their parts. For this dish the “parts” are eggplant, zucchini, peppers, onions, tomatoes, garlic, olives, olive oil and seasoning. And since gardens and farmers markets are brimming with all of those ingredients in late summer, ratatouille is a good way to use up some of the stuff (particularly the less attractive specimens).
While the list of ingredients for ratatouille is pretty standard, the method for preparing the dish is anything but standard. Some recipes suggest cooking all the vegetables separately and then combining at the end. Some recipes suggest a layered approach. Some bake, some saute’, some simmer. But since we like “simple” garden recipes, we use an adapted Jacques Pepin recipe (all of his recipes work) that simmers all the veggies together in the same pot and serves the ratatouille over pasta or rice. This is a very quick and tasty version of ratatouille that makes up for slightly less defined textures with ease of cooking.
And this is an easy dish to make. Chop vegetables, mix everything in a pot, simmer for 30 minutes, cool and serve. But there are a few tips and choices that will make the most of the dish. Japanese eggplant will work better, as they are firmer and have fewer seeds. Sweet red peppers round out the flavors more than green peppers. And fresh tomatoes, when in season, with a touch of purée make for brighter flavor than canned tomatoes (but canned are fine). A few briny black olives added at the end balance the sweet flavors. And simple seasoning is often best. We love fresh herbs in our cooking but suggest just a touch of herbs like thyme or marjoram. A little fresh basil at the end adds a lovely aroma.
And as we noted earlier, we like to serve the warm ratatouille on pasta or rice with a bit of pecorino and parmesan. But you can also let the ratatouille cool and serve it as a side or even a light lunch dish. And the tomato base even lets you pass it off as tomato sauce to kids, so you can give them their veggies without (much) complaint. A nice trick, and all in about 40-45 minutes…so while there are more refined versions of ratatouille out there (and many are quite good) give this one a try for a quick, satisfying vegetable dish.
(Adapted from Jacques Pepin)
Notes Before You Start:
- You can use fresh tomatoes with a splash of tomato purée or substitute with 1, 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes in sauce/juice.
- Japanese eggplant are the lighter-colored, long, thin eggplant. They usually have fewer seeds. But any eggplant will do. Peeling the eggplant is an optional step- we keep the peels on.
What You Get: A sweet and versatile vegetable dish in less than an hour.
What You Need: No special equipment required.
How Long? 40-45 minutes. Basically, you chop veggies for 10 minutes and then cook them for 30 minutes. Maybe a few more minutes to cool the ratatouille.
(Makes about 5 cups)
- 1 large Japanese or 1 small regular eggplant, about 10 oz. Cut into 1-inch pieces
- 2 small zucchini, about 8 oz. Cut into 3/4 inch cubes
- 2 sweet red peppers, about 8 oz. Cut into 1 inch pieces
- 2 cups onion, cut into 3/4 inch pieces
- 2 tablespoons garlic, roughly chopped
- 1 lb. fresh tomatoes (or substitute canned tomatoes, see Notes)
- 1/2 cup tomato purée
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme and/or marjoram
- 1/2 cup pitted black olives (optional, but good)
- Fresh basil, for garnish
- Cut all the vegetables. Place all the ingredients, except the basil and olives, in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Mix thoroughly and move the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes check the ratatouille for consistency. If there is still a lot of liquid, remove the cover increase the heat and let the ratatouille reduce for a few minutes. Consistency should be like a thick pasta sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning.
- Before service, add the basil and olives. Serve over pasta with grated pecorino and/or parmesan cheese.
- Ratatouille (andreasgardencooking.com)
- One-Pot Recipe: Easy French Ratatouille Recipes from The Kitchn (thekitchn.com)
- A special interview and Summer Ratatouille (mommyrunfast.com)
- Home for lunch (portlandfarmersmarket.wordpress.com)
- Ratatouille, cost around $4.00 (frugalhausfrau.wordpress.com)