The movie Ratatouille made me realize I have not made ratatouille in years. Though a Sicilian caponata is similar, and I make that more frequently, it isn’t quite the same as ratatouille. This is a rustic version, not at all the chi-chi mandoline thin vertical presentation done for the movie of the same name, but I suspect it has all of those sweet “feel good” flavors and that trigger good memories associated with childhood comfort food. I never had this dish as a kid, but I totally buy into the comfort food description. I can eat this warm with some roast chicken as we did the other night, a couple of hours after I cooked it. Or I can eat it at room temperature in a sandwich or as a side dish to a meat based sandwich. The flavors meld and taste better a day after you make it, and overall it is a strikingly attractive dish, rather nutritious save for a very generous dose of olive oil, and it is relatively easy to make. Here is Marketman’s ratatouille…
You will need some nice zucchinis, onions, yellow and red peppers, eggplants, fresh herbs, olive oil, garlic, salt and a nice heavy enameled pot to cook it all in. I won’t put precise measures as I never measure when making this dish, I just chop up vegetables to get the approximate mixture that I prefer — not too much of any one vegetable that it would overwhelm the others, not too much of one color and a balance of textures is what I am trying to achieve. The results are always a little bit different based on the veggies used, and the way they all seem to come together after they are cooked. This is another one of many dishes, like tiramisu or spaghetti Bolognese that has been bastardized almost to the point of a major Munch scream, but if it is done simply and correctly, it is absolutely delicious.
Start by cutting up your veggies into similar sized pieces. Place a heavy pot (I used a Le Creuset) over medium heat. Add several tablespoons of olive oil and after a few seconds of heating up, add the sliced eggplants. Don’t move them about too much and get them to brown slightly on both sides. Add a little more oil if it dries up too quickly. After about 4-5 minutes, and when the eggplants looked semi-cooked, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon, taking care not to mush them all up. Next, add a little more olive oil, saute the chopped onions for a few minutes, add some chopped garlic, the chopped yellow and red peppers and gently mix this until they are almost cooked. Add the sliced zucchini. Add some chopped tomatoes and herbs such as thyme or basil or both and let this cook for about 10 minutes. Add back the eggplants, some salt to taste and stir gently and allow the mixture to simmer for say another 15 minutes until the flavors marry each other and the ratatouille “comes together.” Serve warm or at room temperature. I like it better the following day… I thought these photos of the ratatouille looked great… the veggies were still distinct from each other, yet the flavors were smooth and delicious. Some versions of this dish result in a soft mush where the veggies look seriously dead. I like my veggies to look like they are sweet and smiling… :)