Show of hands, who thought of the Pixar movie of the rat who cooks haute cuisine when you saw the word ratatouille? I had heard of ratatouille (the dish) but it wasn't until I saw Ratatouille (the movie) that I decided I wanted to try cooking it. I love the scene *spoiler alert* where Rémi (the rat) cooks simple ratatouille for the picky food critic who has it out for the restaurant, wins him over and saves everything. Except the restaurant. But don't worry it ends well... you'll just have to watch it if you haven't yet.
Anyway, ratatouille (the dish) is the focus of this post because I've discovered a new staple in our menu rotation. It is a traditional dish from Provence in the south of France, meant to be made with the bounty of the summer garden. I've made it a couple times recently and it such a good dish, healthy because it's full of vegetables and delicious because it's full of vegetables... and olive oil. And garlic. It's simple, slow-cooked so all the flavours meld into a summery stew of deliciousness. I found a ratatouille recipe in my trusty Joy of Cooking cookbook, and adapted it a bit. Everyone should have a Joy of Cooking. I found mine at Value Village 10 years ago when I was moving away from home, and I still use it regularly. It's covered in duct tape and stains and is definitely well-loved. Let's move on...
For this recipe the quality of the dish is directly related to the freshness and flavour of the ingredients - no hothouse hydrotomatoes here! Get them vine-ripened, or as close to the garden as you can get.
1 large eggplant (aubergine in French - such a nicer word!)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
3-4 large ripe tomatoes, diced
2 bell peppers (colour of your choice), diced
2-3 small zucchinis, diced
1/2 tsp dried oregano or small handful of fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste
Prep and cooking time - 1 hr 15 minutes
First, slice the eggplant into 1/4-inch thick slices and lay on a cloth or paper towel. Salt them well and let them sit 5-10 minutes to get rid of the excess moisture.
While they are sitting there waiting to be dabbed, heat the olive oil in a heavy pot and sauté the onions and garlic until golden. I always throw in the onions first and wait until they soften before adding the garlic - that way the garlic doesn't burn.
Look at these beauties. The last of my garden tomatoes. I have enjoyed them so much this summer. My dears, you will be missed this winter as I navigate the murky waters of hydroponically grown tomatoes from Mexico...
Dice everything up nice and dicey. When the garlic and onions are golden brown, add the rest of the ingredients (including drained and diced eggplant) to the pot and stir well, adding another glug of olive oil for good measure.
Cook covered over low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and continue cooking for 15 minutes to evaporate some of the liquid. Salt and pepper to taste.
It makes a delicious/super healthy meal with quinoa (or rice) topped with grilled salmon. *Drool*