Ratatouille is one of the best summer dishes because it includes so many fresh garden ingredients: tomato, zucchini, peppers, onions, and a ton of herbs. It is truly satisfying to put this dish on the table and know that nearly every component was grown in your own garden. The only thing I don't include in our family's ratatouille recipe is eggplant. Now don't get me wrong, we did give eggplant a chance. It's just not a vegetable that we appreciate as much. I think it's a texture problem. Anyhow, I've created this recipe "sans aubergine," which is French for "without eggplant." If you also happen to be averse to eggplant, now you have a fancy way to say it!
Tomatoes are really the shining star of this recipe. When cooked long enough, their juices combine with the onions and butter to create a rich, velvety sauce that is almost caramel-like in flavor. Don't be afraid go nuts with the herbs either, as it's hard to over-season when using fresh herbs.
3 Tbsp. butter
1-2 onions, sliced thin (I like to use red onions. The more color the better!)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 zucchini, sliced
1 large bell pepper or 2 banana peppers, diced
2 large tomatoes (about 1 1/2 C.), chopped
3/4 tsp. salt
scant 1/2 tsp. black pepper
1 sprig of thyme
1 sprig of oregano
1/3 C. basil
Note: If using dried herbs, you don't need near as much. Approximately 1/4 tsp. each of dried oregano and thyme, and 2 tsp. dried basil.
Melt butter in a large frying pan over low heat. Toss in the onions and garlic and cook until the onions are almost translucent.
Increase the heat to medium high. Add zucchini slices and diced pepper. Cook for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini is tender.
Dump in the tomatoes and cook everything for 5-7 minutes. While cooking longer allows for more caramelization, you also don't want the tomatoes to reduce to nothing. I like them to still have some structure.
Lastly, add all of the seasoning - salt, pepper, and herbs. Allow to stew for 1 more minute, so the flavors meld.
Ratatouille is a great dish to make ahead, as it reheats well in the microwave. It is marvelous to serve with a piece of cheesy garlic bread, or alongside a creamy, lemon pasta. Anything that echoes the Mediterranean flavors of this dish would pair well.
I've been in love with the idea of ratatouille since I first watched the Pixar film of the same name. Remy the rat chef was my favorite character ever. I was ecstatic when I got a cereal box prize of a little plush Remy and carried him everywhere with me. In the movie, Remy whips up a beautiful plate of ratatouille to win the approval of Anton Ego, a scathing restaurant critic. Upon taking a bite of this dish, Ego is transported back to his childhood and his mother's home cooking. This scene captures the real power of food. Even though ratatouille is a simple stew of vegetables - a French peasant dish actually - it was nevertheless impactful.
Jacques Pepin similarly describes the comfort of a home prepared meal...
In times of stress, what do you dream about? Your mother's clam chowder. It's security, comfort. It brings you home. ~ Jacques Pepin
So whether you're making a clam chowder or this ratatouille recipe, I hope it brings you some warm fuzzies. :)
'Til next time,