Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a bright and chunky summer vegetable stew, rich with olive oil and fragrant with garlic and fresh herbs.

Let’s start with some history and background.

Ratatouille originated from Provence, a region in the south of France near the Mediterranean Sea, the area around present day Nice. The word ‘Ratatouille’ actually comes from the French term “touiller,” which means to toss food.

Ratatouille is traditionally a peasant food but is now a culinary dish served in the top restaurants and many top chefs have their own special recipe that regularly receive praise from critics.

When I think of this dish I remember the movie Ratatouille noting that this dish did gain recognition and popularity as a result of the animated Disney movie in 2007 that won an Oscar the following year. Although the dish was introduced to the less-food-conscious, the recipe featured in the film was far more elaborate, refined and time-consuming than the peasant-based real thing.

With a little imagination, there are endless ways to serve Ratatouille.

  • As a vegetarian main course over grains or polenta
  • Alongside roasted or grilled meats and fish
  • Shakshuka-style with poached eggs
  • Tossed with pasta
  • Folded into omelets or frittatas
  • Dolloped over crostini with goat cheese
  • Straight from the fridge as a snack (it’s delicious cold)

Ingredients

  • 1 large eggplant, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • Himalayan salt
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/3-inch cubes
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 red, orange or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 5 large cloves garlic, chopped
  • 5 large vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into 1/3-inch cubes, with their juices
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons fresh chopped thyme, plus more for serving
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil, plus more for serving

Method

  • Begin by heating 3 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick pan over medium heat. Add the eggplant and season with 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  • Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and starting to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
  • Add another tablespoon of oil to the pan (no need to clean it). Add the zucchini and cook, stirring frequently, until tender-crisp, 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and transfer to a plate; set aside.
  • Add two more tablespoons of oil to the pan and add the onion and bell pepper.
  • Cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and continue cooking for about 3 minutes more. Do not brown. Next, add the tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, sugar, crushed red pepper flakes (if using) and 3/4 teaspoon salt.
  • Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes are broken down into a sauce, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • Add the cooked eggplant to the pan; bring to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat to low, and simmer, uncovered, for about 10 minutes or until the eggplant is soft.
  • Add the zucchini and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more, or until just warmed through. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
  • Sprinkle with fresh basil and thyme, drizzle with a little olive oil if desired, and serve warm or chilled.

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