Posts Tagged ‘ratatouille’

All summer long ratatouille

11 July 2022

All these years and I’ve been making ratatouille backwards. For as long as I can remember, I’ve started with the aubergines and finished with the tomatoes. I don’t know why and it should (obviously!) be the other way around.

There are many ways to make ratatouille. Some profess each vegetable should be cooked separately to preserve its individual taste before all are combined and left to confit together very slowly. This sounds terribly delicious. On the other hand, the more distant origin of the word ratatouille — from the Occitan ‘ratatolha‘ — is that of a coarse (bad?) stew. And while there is nothing bad about my ratatouille (even the backwards one that was my habit!) I like its humbler origin — an effortless dish for life in summer.

The whole point of ratatouille is simplicity. Its preparation — cutting vegetables, just agree on the approximate size — can enlist anyone idling around. It is easily made in large batches for imprecise, extended, friends and family meals. It should, in fact, be made in enormous quantities because cold leftover ratatouille is even better. And in any case it keeps for a few days. It goes equally well with grilled fish, roast chicken, meat on the barbecue, as a lunchtime ‘salad,’ or stirred into a mess of eggs for a ratatouille frittata.

It is the quintessential summer dish.

Right-way-around ratatouille recipe

The quantities are suggestions only, for approximate ratio. I usually make a much larger batch.
The size and shape (cubes vs slices) into which the vegetables are prepared depends on my mood or who is cutting. The important thing is that all the vegetables follow the same principle and are roughly the same size.

Onions (3 medium)
Olive oil
Salt (I like to use coarse grey sea salt)
Garlic (4 cloves)
Red or green peppers (one)
Tomatoes (3 or 4)
Aubergine/eggplant (1 medium)
Courgettes/zucchini (5 or 6 smallish ones)
Bay leaves
Fresh rosemary, thyme, Summer savory (one or all of these)
Good wine vinegar (For this I like to make use of my small bottle of moscatel vinegar, which is slightly sweet, but any good wine vinegar is fine)

Peel the onions and cut them into large dice (or half moons).

Pour enough olive oil to just cover the bottom of a heavy-bottomed saucepan, turn on the heat (medium to low). When the oil is hot, after a brief minute, put int the cut onions, stir, salt with a good pinch, and let the onions brown, lid on (keeping an eye and stirring occasionally so they don’t burn), while prepapring the garlic and peppers.

Squish the garlic cloves with the side of a knife, remove the husk, and cut coarsely.

Wash, deseed, and cut the pepper into small cubes (or thin slices).

Once the onions are starting to turn golden, add the garlic and peppers, stir, close the lid, and let stew while preparing the tomatoes.

Wash and cut the tomatoes into chunks (or thin wedges). Add them to the pot with another good pinch of salt.

Let the onions, garlic, peppers, and tomatoes cook until they start melding and resembling a sauce.

Meanwhile, prepare the rest of the vegetables: Wash, remove the stem, and cut the aubergines (eggplant) into slices, then each slice into cubes. Wash, remove the end, and cut the courgettes (zucchini) into slices or cubes.

When the vegetables in the pot begin to ressemble a tomato-y sauce, add the aubergines and courgettes with another generous pinch of salt. Add the herbs, any mix as strikes your fancy. I think bay leaf is indispensable.

Cook for at least an hour, perhaps an hour an a half, over low heat, until all the vegetables have softened completely.

Stir in one or two tablespoons of vinegar, just enough to tease out the acidity.

Eat hot or at room temperature or cold out of the fridge the next day.

Ratatouille

6 September 2010

I make ratatouille very methodically. One vegetable at a time. Cut to the same size (or as close as possible). Added progressively. There’s a rhythm to it. It’s quite meditative.

***

Olive oil

3 medium onions

2 red peppers

2 medium eggplant

3 cloves garlic

4 zucchinis

4 plum tomatoes

Bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, and summer savory (if available)

Salt and pepper

Sherry vinegar

***

Thinly slice the onions. Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, such as Le Creuset or cast-iron, large enough to hold the whole ratatouille. Add the onions to the oil, season with salt and pepper, and let them slowly melt until translucent, checking and stirring occasionally to avoid sticking to the pan.

While the onions melt, cut the red peppers into 1/2 in (1 cm) squares*. Add them to the onions. Season with salt and pepper and let stew, checking and stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.

While the onions and peppers are stewing, cut the eggplant into 1/2  in (1 cm) cubes. Add eggplant and whole, peeled garlic cloves to saucepan, season with salt and pepper, and let stew, checking and stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.

(At this point it is a good idea to stir and check the bottom of the pan and add some olive oil if necessary.)

While the onions, peppers, and eggplant are stewing, slice the zucchini, not too thinly. Add to saucepan, season with salt and pepper, and let stew, checking and stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.

Next peal the tomatoes and dice them into 1/2  in (1 cm) cubes. Add to saucepan, season with salt and pepper and let stew, checking and stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.

Bind together with kitchen twine a sprig of rosemary, and a few sprigs each of thyme and summer savory if available. Add the herbs with 2 bay leaves to the ratatouille, stir from the bottom up, and let stew slowly a further 15-20 minutes approximately until the vegetables are cooked but not mushy. If you are serving the ratatouille cold, remove from heat a little early as the vegetables will continue to cook while the ratatouille cools.

Check salt and pepper seasoning and add 2-3 tablespoons of sherry vinegar to taste. Serve hot or at room temperature.

*The actual dimension is not so important. The key is for all the vegetables to be cut to approximately the same size.


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