Thursday, March 26, 2009

Ratatouille

Ratatouille is one of my favorite dishes. It is the perfect time of year to make this traditional French Provençal vegetable stew as everything is in season. For the past month, my favorite organic stall at the Farmers' Market has had Asian eggplant in their "bargain" bin along with green and red bell peppers. The Florida sweet onions are at their prime, as well as tomatoes. There are several ways of making this dish. Some cook everything separately, then layer and continue cooking, while others choose to saute everything together at once. My version is sort of an easy version of the latter. Yes, you could pre-chop everything and then begin, but I like to cut everything in a certain order as it is cooking.

* First I start by putting about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large pot and heat over a medium flame. While heating, I roughly chop an onion and 1 clove of garlic, adding it the oil once chopped.
* Next I cut the eggplant (or aubergine depending on where you live). This then gets added to the softening onions with more olive oil to coat well. Eggplant is a very thirsty vegetable and will absorb all of the oil, so don't hold back. At this point I add a good pinch of sea salt, stir, and then continue chopping the rest of the vegetables.
* I then chop the zucchini (courgette), yellow squash, and bell peppers. Once all of the vegetables have been added, I add another drizzle of olive oil if needed, a large pinch of herbes de Provence, reduce heat to medium-low and let simmer.
* While the vegetables are simmering, I chop 1 large or 2 medium tomatoes.
* After the mixture has gently simmer about 30 minutes total, I add the chopped tomato and about 1/2 tablespoon of Harissa paste and stir. I then bring it back up to just about medium and let gently simmer for 20-30 minutes, or to desired consistency.You can serve ratatouille as a side dish or a main. One of my favorite meals is to have ratatouille over brown rice. It makes an absolutely lovely filling for crepes. I also make a pizza using the left overs - spreading over a pre-baked crust, top with Feta cheese, then bake until cheese had melted.
While I am very happy with this method as it is so easy, I've been reading a few recipes that add the tomato at the beginning. This forms more of a sauce for the vegetables to stew in. I've always added to tomato at the end as I was told many years ago that adding tomatoes too soon to a dish hinders the way the other vegetables cook. Now, I have no idea if this is true and haven't tried doing it in reverse, but if you have anything to add to that topic - I would love to hear!

2 comments:

Michelle said...

I have never tried this dish but all these vegetables look so good and filling! I kept thinking of that movie Ratatouille. :)

thewindhover said...

Ratatouille is one of my favourite dishes too - so easy and delicious, and oh boy aren't the colours fabulous!