Recipe: Ratatouille…and, I Need Your Input!

recipe ratatouilleThere are certain Mediterranean dishes that just scream “summer” and ratatouille is one of them, although honestly this dish will work any time of year, even if the staple ingredients—eggplant, zucchini and tomatoes—are not in season. Unlike, say, a fresh vegetable dish, when you stew veggies this way, it’s more forgiving. I enjoy making a big batch that I can eat for days, especially when it’s too hot to want to cook every evening.

Before I get to the recipe, I’m developing some content about how to eat Mediterranean-style, and looking for some input on what would be really useful. If you’ve been interested in eating in a more Mediterranean way but yet to give it a go, or you have tried but struggled with it, I would love to talk to you.

I’ve carved out some time in my schedule this week to have 15-20 minute phone calls with a handful of people, so if you’re interested in chatting about going more Med, shoot me an email via the contact page. I’ll send the first several respondents details for how to schedule a call with me.

As for the recipe, I made it a day ahead this time, and after we had it for dinner, my husband said, “I know you worked really hard on this, but…” and I swear, I thought he was going to say, “…but it wasn’t that good.” (I don’t know why I thought this, because I’ve made it many time and he always likes it.) But no, he finished, “…can you make it every week?”

As for the “working hard” part, this recipe isn’t complicated. It does take some time chopping and being near the stove, but if you have all of the stovetop ingredients chopped and ready to go before you start sautéing, it’s a breeze.

As you keep an eye on things and stirred occasionally, there’s plenty of time to drink a cup of coffee—or glass of wine—load or unload the dishwasher, clean up the bowls you’re done with, chat with your spouse, friend, child or pet, and so on. I guess it’s nice that the finished product fools whoever you serve it to that you were working like a fiend in the kitchen!

Ratatouille

Yield 4-8 servings

This is a perfect summer dish, not just because it makes the most of high-summer vegetables, but because it’s easy to double and is even better made ahead. The leftovers work beautifully with some grilled salmon or chicken on the side, or perhaps a bean dish. For breakfast (or heck, lunch or dinner), top with a fried or poached egg. To keep with the casual summer theme, please not that you don’t need to be precise with the amounts. When you’re dealing with whole ingredients like eggplants and zucchini, it’s hard to make it come exactly to a pound. The recipe will still be just fine!

Ingredients

  • 1 pound eggplant, sliced crosswise into 1-inch thick rounds
  • Olive oil
  • 1 pound zucchini, trimmed, halves lengthwise, and sliced into 1/2-inch thick half-moons
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
  • 4 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 Roma (plum) tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped basil

Instructions

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven, and preheat the oven to 400F.
  2. Arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet (line with foil or parchment paper for easier cleanup). Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl, and brush onto the eggplant, then flip the slices and brush the second sides. Each side should have a thin coating of oil. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping the slices halfway through. When done, the slices will be soft and lightly browned on each side. Remove from the oven and cool. Cut into rough 1-inch pieces and set aside.
  3. Warm 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat in a Dutch oven or a large, deep skillet. Add the zucchini half-moons and sauté, stirring occasionally, until golden and just tender, about 10-12 minutes. Remove the zucchini to a large bowl, taking care to leave any excess oil behind in the pan.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium and add a tablespoon of oil if there is no oil left in the pan (this sometimes happens). Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  5. Add the bell pepper and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender but not browned, about 6 minutes.
  6. Add the tomatoes, salt, thyme, and bay leaf and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook for 5 minutes.
  7. Add the eggplant and zucchini, stir everything together, and cook for another 15 to 20 minutes. Taste and adjust the salt as necessary. Discard the bay leaf and stir in the basil.
  8. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature.

Notes

Make ahead notes: You can roast the eggplant a day or two ahead, refrigerating until you're ready to use it. This will save you some time when you are actually preparing the dish. You can also prepare the entire dish ahead of time, because ratatouille is ever better on the second or third day, once the flavors have timed to meld and ripen.

Courses Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Cuisine Mediterranean