Perhaps people who actually cook for a living have a way of making ratatouille as beautiful as the vegetables that go into it. I, however, do not. And nor would I want to, if the result is any less delicious than the current “unattractive glop” that can be viewed below for the very brave. Ratatouille is the process by which an overabundance of summer vegetables (read: the way in which I used up another 4 summer squash this week) is transformed into a stew that can not only be eaten as a soup, but as a pasta sauce, a sauce to cook with chicken (VERY good!), or a sauce to put on practically anything. We happened to have it on brown rice last night and on pasta today for lunch. This is also another excuse to use a long-ignored dutch oven, although it doesn’t help the problem of my kitchen overheating. Honestly, I make this recipe up every time in terms of the amounts of different vegetables and the way in which they are initially cooked. This version is probably the easiest, requiring only a dutch oven and a baking pan, and the baking pan is only because I much prefer eggplant that is slightly grilled or broiled to eggplant that is essentially steamed.
4 summer squash, sliced into rounds
3 medium or six small Japanese eggplants, sliced into long strips
8 sweet peppers of various kinds, seeded and chopped
4 medium tomatoes, diced
1 red and 1/2 white onion, chopped into medium pieces
3 large cloves of garlic, diced
Basil leaves, chopped
Fresh oregano, leaves and flowers taken off the stem
Splash of red wine (or white wine or chicken/vegetable broth or water)
Salt and pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Mix the slices of eggplant in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Place the eggplant slices on a baking sheet (you probably don’t need to oil the baking sheet and it’s alright if the slices overlap) and bake for 20-30 minutes or until they are browned on one side and soft. While the eggplants bake, heat ~2 teaspoons of olive oil in a dutch oven or large non-aluminum soup pot. When the oil is hot, add the onions and cook until slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Then add the chopped peppers, summer squash, tomatoes, garlic, and splash (or two) of red wine. I usually chop the vegetables in that order and just add them when they’re done being chopped. Add the fresh oregano leaves and flowers, a splash of olive oil, and salt and pepper. Cover the dutch oven and cook the stew on low for an hour or so, stirring every 15 minutes so that the stew doesn’t stick to the dutch oven. Add the eggplant slices to the stew when they are done, along with the chopped basil leaves. The ratatouille is done when the vegetables have mostly fallen apart and the soup has “come together” (tastes and smells amazing).
The roll call (clockwise from bottom left): black peppers with thin skins (4), green bell peppers (2), early girl tomato, Italian peppers that are usually mild but can occasionally be quite spicy (2), two kinds of heirloom tomato, fresh basil, dark purple and light purple Japanese eggplant (4 and 2), yellow summer squash, zucchini, Italian summer squash (2), red onion, early girl tomato, fresh oregano, and peeled garlic (3). Not shown: half a white onion.
I must accept that photos of ratatouille just don’t do it justice. The only attractive image I’ve ever really seen is in the movie, which is probably only attractive because it’s animated.