08 Aug2007

ratat1

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…

ratat3

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.

ratat2

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… :)

 

COMMENTS:

  1. tulipfleurs says:

    I’d like to try this possibly this weekend but first gotta make my run to Farmer Joe’s for the veggies. This looks soooo good with all my favorite veggies too! My friend came back from France and gave me a bag of herbs which consist of thyme, basil, etc. I think I’ll use it for the seasoning. Thanks as always for your wonderful recipes which truly inspires me! Take care and have a good one!

    Aug 8, 2007 | 6:28 am

     
  2. Ed says:

    Hey, ratatouille! So is ratatouille the French version of pinakbet, or is pinakbet the Filipino version of ratatouille?

    Just another thing to make you go “hmmm”…

    Aug 8, 2007 | 6:53 am

     
  3. Marketman says:

    Ed, I was actually going to write something about the comparison but decided against it… I guess many cultures have a dish that includes a lot of the native vegetables in their area… ratatouille relies on olive oil and the natural sweetness of the veggies used for its key flavor, and pinakbet relies on fish sauce to enhance local veggies… I love both dishes. :)

    Aug 8, 2007 | 7:17 am

     
  4. Maria Clara says:

    It is no sweat no fuss dish. I totally agree with you this dish tastes better the day after it’s cooked when all the flavors blended in. When preparing it for a party and prepared it the day before the party – on the day of the party stick it in a preheated 400 degrees oven for 10 minutes to warm it up to keep the integrity of the veggies and spiked up the flavor. I love it with pasta – lasagna, baked pasta, spaghetti, roast beef, roast pork loin and sauteed fish aside from what you mentioned above.

    Aug 8, 2007 | 7:25 am

     
  5. dhayL says:

    I never thought that this dish was very easy to prepare! I would try this one this weekend!

    MM, not only that your vegies look like they were smiling in the photos, when i look at them, they’re calling me, and whispering in my ear….take a bite, cook me…take a bite…cook me… :)

    Aug 8, 2007 | 7:47 am

     
  6. brenda says:

    i like the bowl.. what do you call it? the colors are great, but I dont think I’m ready for this kind of dish yet. But I bet its yummy….

    Aug 8, 2007 | 8:34 am

     
  7. jo-i says:

    aside from the salad, josephine included ratatouille as another vegetable dish in our wedding. as we wed in december, the festive colors of the dish matched the Christmas season.

    Aug 8, 2007 | 9:14 am

     
  8. bernadette says:

    Thanks so much for some hints in vegetable cooking. Where i am from, veggies are not as complete as when in Manila. Like, no one here would sell zucchini or even basil (what’s dat?). So I’m happy that certain “imported” herbs grow in my garden :-). I love ratatouille as well as minestrone (and yes, pinakbet) but then have to make do with what is here.

    Aug 8, 2007 | 9:17 am

     
  9. zeph says:

    MM, I usually use dry herbs because one of the hazards of living alone and cooking for yourself is that you’re bound to buy everything at one go for convenience. And in more than one ocassion, I had to throw out fresh herbs like cilantro, parsley because they don’t stay fresh that long in the fridge (plus the fact that I don’t want my food to have cilantro and parsley the whole week :-)). I heard in one of the cooking shows that if you use dry herbs, the technique is to use much less than what you would actually use if you have fresh herbs. I wonder if the same would work in your ratatouille.

    Aug 8, 2007 | 9:44 am

     
  10. Marketman says:

    zeph, yes, dried herbs are more potent, so use them in smaller amounts…but do go ahead and use dried thyme and basil if you can’t get fresh… brenda, the bowl is a ceramic piece with a cover by John Pettijohn, I just recently unearthed it from my parents stuff that we are still clearing out…

    Aug 8, 2007 | 10:19 am

     
  11. wil-b cariaga says:

    before i went to culinary school, i have no idea how to make a better veggie side dish, i always see the same buttered veg/ steamed veg in the plate, and having to cook ratatouille was a change. . . i think i was just not trying hard to experiment on things that time. . . hehe

    Aug 8, 2007 | 10:52 am

     
  12. allen says:

    Again, I’d say this is good with crusty bread…I add mushrooms to my version, is it “legal” (not bastardizing hehe)? As an extender actually, since, zucchini can sometimes be pricey.

    Aug 8, 2007 | 12:39 pm

     
  13. Blaise Fortuna says:

    Definitely something I myself could cook.. Thanks MarketMan for sharing this.. ;)

    Aug 8, 2007 | 1:00 pm

     
  14. Mila says:

    I remember reading the technique they used teaching the movie folks how to make the chichi ratatouille. They cooked each vegetable seperately until tender, then layered in the baking dish, and then nicely shaped in that spiral tower seen in the film.

    Too many restaurants overcook vegies, turns dishes like rat’l and pinakbet into mush.

    Aug 8, 2007 | 1:10 pm

     
  15. suzette says:

    thanks for the recipe mm! next job for me is to teach my kids to appreciate this dish a la anton ego hahaha :)

    Aug 8, 2007 | 1:49 pm

     
  16. k says:

    I like ratatouille so much that I never get the chance to leave some for the next day. Haha. I would really like to find out how it tastes one day after it is cooked. Your version looks so appetizing, MM. Thanks!

    Aug 8, 2007 | 6:01 pm

     
  17. chris says:

    Mila, your comment reminded me of my chef-friend’s gripe that manila restaurants tend to undercook vegetables- yes you read that right! Funny that there rarely seems to be a middle ground in Manila restos, either you get hard and crunchy (which, in my opinion, is acceptable only with crudites but not properly cooked veggies) or more commonly, soft and mushy.

    Aug 8, 2007 | 10:14 pm

     
  18. Lightheaded says:

    I’m not too fond of vegetables but the picture sure likes a yummy blend of vegetables I could eat. Except I don’t know what a zucchini is, in Tagalog. It looks related to pipino though.

    Aug 9, 2007 | 2:28 am

     
  19. Apicio says:

    A reader’s request was answered by Gourmet magazine in their May 1999 issue, page 134 for the recipe of Eggplant, zucchini, red pepper and parmesan torte. It asks for Italian eggplant but I substituted the tastier Asian ones. Though within the marshalling skill required for assembling ratatuille to which it is a close relative, I guess it is a city cousin offering an even more carefully tended appearance and taste.

    The separate cooking of the several elements of ratatuille reminds me of certain Spanish dishes which share the same Mediterranean approach to cooking with Provence.

    Your pictures are particularly vivid as usual. Now no amount of styling artifice can achieve that.

    Aug 9, 2007 | 5:48 am

     
  20. lee says:

    namit…

    Aug 9, 2007 | 2:53 pm

     
  21. jeff says:

    i love the way REMY presented its ratatouille.. using slices insteds of cubes.. galing..

    Aug 9, 2007 | 9:58 pm

     
 

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