Thanks to Pixar, the first image to pop into your head when you hear the word ‘ratatouille’ might in fact be a rat! A fuzzy, cute chef rat, but a rat nonetheless.
Moving away from the rat-- for obvious reasons--if you haven’t made ratatouille yet, what are you waiting for? Seriously, the time is now! Almost everything you need for this amazing dish is currently available at your farmers' market.
Ratatouille is a traditional French Provençal stewed vegetable dish, originating in Nice. It can be served as a side dish with fish or meat, yet it’s hearty enough to stand alone, with a side of crusty bread. The key ingredients in a ratatouille include tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers, and onion. When you go to the farmers market this weekend, you’ll find all of those ingredients heaped in boxes and bins and scattered on tables.
Be sure to put your personal spin on the ratatouille. There are multiple varieties of eggplant at the market, so pick the kind of eggplant you want. Mix red and green bell peppers; use heirloom or vine ripened tomatoes. It’s completely your choice. The most important thing is to get these ingredients at your local farmers’ market—this dish is uninspiring unless you’re using inspired ingredients.
There are many variations on ratatouille; the recipe I recently used is from Tom Colicchio, of Craft Restaurants. My zucchini came from Garden of Eve, my tomatoes from Queens County Farm Museum, and my peppers and eggplant from Norwich Meadows.
Adapted from Think Like a Chef
4 small zucchini
1 small eggplant
3 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
1 green bell pepper, cored and seeded
2 tomatoes, halved and seeded
½ cup olive oil
1 onion, peeled and chopped
salt & black pepper
5 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
6 sprigs of fresh basil
- a) Slice the zucchini lengthwise, then cut into half moons. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into 6 pieces, then slice. Thinly slice the peppers. Cut the tomato halves into half again and cut into thin lengths.
- b) Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, salt, and pepper and cook the onions for about 10 minutes, until the onions are tender and golden. Transfer the onions to a large bowl, carefully wipe out the skillet and add another tablespoon of oil.
- c)Cook the zucchini until they begin to soften (about 3 minutes). Add a little garlic, a sprig of basil, and more salt and pepper. Cook until the zucchini are almost tender, 2-3 more minutes. Add the zucchini to the bowl with the onion, and then wipe out the skillet.
- d) Cook the eggplant, adding more oil. Add garlic, basil, salt and pepper when the eggplant is about half-cooked. Add the eggplant to the onion and zucchini.
- e) Repeat the same process with the peppers, flavoring them with garlic and basil. When the peppers are almost done, after 3-5 minutes, add the tomatoes to the skillet. Cook the mixture for 3-5 minutes, then add the onion, zucchini, and eggplant mixture.
- f) Reduce the heat to medium-low and gently simmer the ratatouille, partially covered, until all the vegetables are tendered (about 15 minutes).
- g) Spoon the ratatouille into a colander set over a bowl. Drain the vegetables for a few minutes and then pour the juices into a small pan. Thicken the vegetables juices over high heat and then combine these juices with the drained ratatouille into the original skillet. Warm over low heat, serve, and enjoy!
This recipe is cross posted on The Fresh Blog