I was feeling very energetic and creative, so I decided to make Ratatouille, a vegetable stew which hails from Provençe, in southeastern France on the French-Italian border. It’s a rustic, hearty dish made of summer vegetables that can be eaten as a side dish or served over pasta, rice, or my favorite, couscous, with crunchy French bread. and tasty wine. Formidable!!
I see lots of pictures on the internet with the vegetables cut just so and artistically arranged in casserole dishes. I think such attention to detail misses the point of the dish entirely!! It’s a rustic stew, meaning a country dish, from the land, traditionally made in a large dutch oven where it cooks for over an hour allowing the herbs, spices, and veggies to blend to perfection. Ratatouille is best when served with wine, crusty bread, and meant to be enjoyed with family, great friends, and hearty laughter and conversation.
It’s labor intensive but well worth the effort: It’s healthy, vegan, and can keep for weeks in the freezer.
I start my ratatouille with eggplant, red, orange, and yellow peppers, zucchini, and yellow squash. For my sauce I use tomato paste, onions, and Roma tomatoes. Spices and herbs are fresh garlic, rosemary, basil, cilantro, salt and pepper. Utensils needed are a large cutting board, a very sharp knife, a large Dutch oven and several rimmed baking sheets. It would be ideal if all of your pots and pans are non-stick; clean up is so much easier.
The top center picture illustrates how the vegetables are prepared: they are washed, cut into chunks, then spread separately in one layer on the baking sheets: peppers, eggplant, zucchini, and squash. Sprinkle each sheet with olive oil, salt, and pepper, basil, rosemary, and cilantro. Smash several garlic cloves and distribute over the veggies as well. Set the oven to 350 degrees, no higher. You want the taste of the veggies and seasonings to slowly meld to perfection. Put all of the veggies in the oven at the same time. If your oven isn’t large enough, rotate them in shifts. The eggplant will be done first. Keep close watch as you don’t want them to overcook.
While that’s happening, bottom right, blanch your tomatoes by cooking them for 15 seconds in boiling water then transferring them immediately to water that is ice cold. The skins should peel right off! Cut them into chunks and cook with the diced onions, smashed garlic cloves, olive oil, and tomato paste. Add them to the Dutch oven and let simmer. Slowly. Once the tomatoes have melted into the paste, add the remaining herbs, salt and pepper.
Bottom left: the veggies should be finished roasting by now. Slowly add them to the tomato sauce and let simmer on low heat for about an hour, stirring every 20 minutes so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. The video above shows you how delicious it looks as it’s cooking. Your kitchen should smell like you’re in Provençe, and, if you’re like me, should look like hell!!
Notice, I didn’t give any measurements or weights ot instructions along that line. This is a rustic, family meal that should be made to taste, your taste, in my opinion. You may want to add Thai or spicey red peppers, perhaps Shiitake mushrooms, or add a little wine to the tomato. sauce. You’re the chef – CREATE!!
The aftermath!!! Whenever I visited my grandmother’s kitchen and it looked like death warmed over, I KNEW she had cooked a fantastic feast from scratch and we were going to eat like Pashsas from the Ottoman Empire!!!!!!